Is The Imported Iranian Kiwi Fruit A Threat To Kashmir Apple?

by Shakir Ashraf

SRINAGAR: The import of Iranian kiwis via Afghanistan to India has triggered a new concern for Kashmir’s apple growers. After a contagious quarantine pest was discovered in the cheap imported fruit, early December, concern is mounting.

Apple being readied for packaging. KL image

Majid Aslam Wafai, President of Jammu and Kashmir Integrated Cold Chain Processing and Cold Chain Association (JK-PICCA), has written to Dr Sarfaraz Ahmed Wani, Director of Research at Sher-Kashmir University of Science and Technology (SKUAST-K) requesting him to start analysing samples from Iranian fruit flooding the Kashmiri markets.

“Recently Iran Kiwi has been banned due to incidence of Aspidiotus Neri and Aonidella Aurantii in many shipments. Iran is exporting apples to India from orchards which have been affected by these pests along with others like codling moth, Which we believe have the potential of destroying and damaging our orchards,” the letter accessed by this reporter reads

It adds: “We request your good self to have SKUAST analysis report through your august hands and supervision whether the import of Iran fruit may not affect or destroy our Horticulture produce/orchards to enable us to follow up the case for remedial majors with the appropriate authorities to be taken by the government of India to prevent any bad eventuality.”

Kashmir’s apple cart is a sensitive fruit. It is already fighting the scab and Sanjose scale. Any new infection can play a riot with Kashmir’s principal economy that fetches upwards of Rs 10,000 a year to the peripheral economy. The threat, if detected, could undo the gains that Kashmir is anticipating with the mass scale of traditional orchards by super-sensitive high-density orchards. The sensitivity of the apple cart towards the disease was the key factor that most of the Ladakh produce including apricots were prevented from entry in Kashmir for decades.

Alarm bells were sounded in Kashmir, which produces more than two-thrd of India’s apple, after the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO), a body under the Union’s Ministry of Agriculture and Peasant Welfare, wrote to Iran on December 7, 2021 about the infestation from two stone pests, Aspidiotus Nerd and Aonidella Aurantii, in several shipments of kiwi from Iran.

Delhi has already informed Tehran that “the phytosanitary certificates issued by the National Plant Protection Organisation, Iran, for fresh kiwi fruit will not be accepted from our end as of December 8, 2021.”

Experts in Kashmir say the ‘coding moth’ relies more heavily on fruit than leaves as a food source, and among the major pest threats to fruits, especially apples and pears, experts say.

Meanwhile, Kashmir apple dealers also wrote to Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar and raised the issue regarding the misuse of the Free Trade Agreement. “Some Fresh fruit traders have started to import Iran’s fresh apple illegally and unlawfully under the trade name of Afghan apple and misusing the Free Trade Agreement (FTA)”.

They warned that “pests entering the territory of any apple-producing country would be a disaster for local farmers.” They demanded a complete ban on the import of apples from Iran “until the quarantine problem is resolved.

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