Apple Revolution

    Author: NARESH THAKUR Genre: »

    Rajiv K. Phull
    It was beginning of the 20th century when Satyanand Stokes introduced apple cultivation for the first time in Himachal Pradesh. At the same time, apple orchards were established in Kullu also but it was only after 1950 that apple production gained momentum. From 712 hectare under apple production in 1950, now 1.3 lakh hectares has been brought under apple orchards in Himachal with Shimla district accounting for major production. It has revolutionized economy as the Himachal produces apple worth Rs. 2,500 crore and is livelihood of six lakh growers. Kinnauri apple is famous globally because of its quality. However, the impact of global warming is also witnessed in its production as apple belt is shifting to upper areas in Kullu Valley with tribal people in Lahaul & Spiti district also establishing orchards. On the other hand, new apple varieties suitable for plain areas give a new hope as 10 districts of Himachal, excluding Una and Hamirpur, are considered suitable for apples. Nevertheless, Himachal gave apple to India and has earned the status of fruit bowl of the country primarily due to production of this delicious and juicy crop of apple.

    Apple orchards were first established in Kotgarh and Kullu with Satyanand Stokes choosing Dhana Dhar Kotgarh area suitable for apple trees around 1900. He also imported different apple varieties to give new direction to apple production in the state. Captain R. C. Lee also established the first apple orchard in Kullu and Alexander Coutts near Mashobra during the same period. However, apple production got an impetus after 1950 as 712 hectare area was brought under apple orchards. Apple production has been increasing since then as more horticulturists were attracted to this cash crop. Currently, apple orchards are spread over 1.30 lakh hectare in Himachal and nearly 6 lakh horticulturists are associated with apple with 3 lakh directly dependent for their livelihood. Apple orchards are located primarily in Shimla, Kinnaur, Kullu, Mandi, and Chamba districts in addition to some areas in Bilaspur, Solan, Una and Hamirpur districts. Major apple varieties produced in Himachal include Royal, Red, Golden, Red Golden and others. New varieties are also being introduced in upper and lower belts that have resulted in enhanced apple production.
    Apple Economy in Himachal
    *  Apple Production: Rs 2,500 Crore
    *   Shimla district dominates in apple production
    *   712 hectare brought under apple in 1950
    *   1.3 lakh hectare under apple orchards
    *   Important role in Himachal’s GDP
    *   Record production of 4.45 apple boxes in 2010
    *  Six lakh apple growers in 10 districts
    New Areas for Apple Production
    As apple crop is facing problems in upper areas of Himachal, new varieties are being introduced in lower areas of the state. Experts opine that new varieties suitable for plain areas have been developed. Some of the growers in Bilaspur and Kangra have grown apple. Horticulture experts feel that 10 districts of Himachal, excluding Una and Hamirpur, are suitable for apple production
    *   Dr. Rakshpal developed apple orchard on nine kanals in Kariara village near Dehra in Kangra
    *   Hariman, a resident in Panyal village near Ghumarwin in Bilaspur district has developed 100 apple trees
    *   Mann Tea Estate producing apples near Dharmshala
     Royal: The Kinnaur Specialty
    Apples produced in Kinnaur district are famous for their quality globally and the apple production has become major source of earning of people of this tribal area as its production is increasing every year. Nearly 11, 000 hectare area with 3 lakh apple trees is under apple orchards and nearly 1 lakh new apple trees are being added every year. A 20-25 kg carton of Kinnauri apple fetched a price of Rs. 600 to Rs. 3000 in different mandis of the country. Nearly 23 lakh apple cartons are likely to be produced this year. Main variety of apple in the area is Royal whereas other varieties like Oregan Spur, Red Spur, Well Spur, Super Chief and others. Assistant Director of Regional Horticulture Research Station of Dr. YS Parmar UHF, Sharbo, Dr. Satish Kumar says that some problems have surfaced in apple orchards in lower areas of Kinnaur district and growers are being told about problems and their solutions in a phased manner by holding awareness camps.

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