The recent natural calamities in Himachal Pradesh have had an adverse effect on apple growers and traders in Kullu district. Traditionally, the apple season winds down by the end of September, with over half of the region’s yield reaching markets. However, only 4.38 lakh apple boxes have been transported out of the state thus far this year.
Heavy rains have caused repeated closures on the highways and link roads, making it difficult for apple growers to transport their produce. The growers, unable to take the yield to markets, have been forced to cease plucking the fruit, leading to rotting apples.
Anni-Nirmand to Manali route in Bahya Saraj is among the worst-hit. The story is different for the high-altitude Lahaul district, with multiple closures on the Kullu-Manali national highway caused by landslides. Growers transporting their produce are often stuck in traffic for days. Nakul Khullar, Prem Lal, Ramesh Chand, Tej Ram, and Leela Prasad, all horticulturists, have expressed their disappointment over the situation, which has led to lower apple yield and diminished quality.
Kullu Fruit Producer Board president Mahendra Upadhyay said that there is a lack of suitable vehicles to ferry the produce out of the district.
The Kullu-Mandi road is ill-suited for heavy vehicles as it needs repair. This has further compounded the issues of growers during the peak of apple season as they need to transport their produce almost every day.
In June, the horticulture department had formulated a projection, earmarking a harvest of roughly 70 lakh apple boxes for Kullu district. In light of the disaster, horticulture deputy director BM Chauhan said that the department is revisiting the projection by factoring in the weather conditions and resultant losses.
National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) resident engineer Ashok Chauhan said that the re-opening of Kullu-Mandi road for traffic is a tough task.
On July 9 and 10, rampaging Beas and Pin Parvati rivers had flooded settlements, roads and markets in the district, causing unprecedented losses. Even the green tax barrier on the Kullu-Manali road was reduced to rubble.
In Sainj, the usually bustling marketplace lost nearly 30 shops and 40 residences to the fury of Pin Parvati river.
Prem Thakur, an environmentalist from Sainj, urged the Union government to declare the flooding a national calamity to help those affected in rehabilitation. Pankaj Sethi, a resident of Bhuntar, said that assistance from the Union government is necessary for the state to recover from the tragedy.
Himachal Pradesh Hotel and Restaurant Association president Gajendra Thakur emphasised the effect of the disasters on the tourism industry. He highlighted that the industry, that employs thousands in the state, has come to a standstill because of the destruction in the state.