The All India Kisan Sabha is holding an apple farmer workshop in Kashmir, deciding to form an Apple Farmers Federation of India, primarily comprised of growers from three states: J&K, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, as well as a determination to form small cooperatives.
In the workshop, AIKS is planning to create models similar to the model of cooperatives in Kerala to make sure that the small apple growers are benefited and are not dominated by the corporates involved in the apple trade.
They have decided to submit a charter of demands to the Union Government and undertake struggles till realization of the demands, which include the declaration of a Rs. 2500 crore package to enhance per hectare productivity of apples.
They have decided to form an 11-member committee of apple growers from J & K, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand who will take up the day-to-day issues of the farmers on the ground. The AIKS said that they are now focusing on issues crop-wise across the country and the apple remains the backbone of the economy in Kashmir Valley.
Out of the total Rs. 14400 crore value of apples in the market, only Rs. 4300 crore reaches the actual grower and more than Rs. 10,000 crores are taken by the corporates, businessmen, and middlemen. This has to be changed, and the formation of small cooperatives can help to counter this.
Also, collective cooperative farming will bring bargaining power and facilitate pooling of resources. Such real-time experiments can only resist the present exploitation of large trade capitalists and their intermediaries. This will help in uniting the agrarian classes against corporate exploitation.
Apple provides livelihood to around nine lakh households in India, mainly from Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. J&K produces 77 percent of apple fruit in India, followed by Himachal Pradesh at 19 percent and Uttarakhand at around 2.5 percent.
The participants in the workshop stated that the government of India had allowed the import of apples to facilitate corporate control over wholesale as well as retail markets.
Corporates make huge profits through multi-national trade manipulations. For example, Afghanistan does not even have one lakh metric tonnes of Apple production, but six lakh MT of Apple was imported by our country from Afghanistan in the recent period. The Union Government allows corporations to manipulate trade in order to lower farmer sales prices.
These farmer leaders decided to reach out to all the apple farmers, spread across 20 districts across the country, within a stipulated time frame. They said this is the first step towards building a vibrant peasant movement based on the crop-specific issues in this sector as part of the peasant movement against the corporatization of agriculture.
The government is worried about corporate giants like Adani, but growers are suffering and nobody cares about them. Even pesticides are ruining the crops. Hence, it is vital that the government establish a laboratory in every block to ensure the quality of pesticides.