Apple growers of Himachal unhappy

Subhash Rajta

Shimla, February 1

The Budget has left a bitter taste in the mouth of apple growers. With their profits sliding year after year due to a volatile market, sharp increase in input costs, and heavy import of apple from other countries, the growers feel the Budget has failed to address any of their concerns.

The biggest disappointment is the unchanged import duty on apple, which continues to be 50 per cent. "We have been demanding for long that the duty be raised to 100 per cent. The unchanged duty will continue to hurt the domestic apple market," said Lokinder Bisht, president of the Progressive Growers Association.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had also requested the Centre to increase the import duty on apple to 100 per cent during his meetings for consultation on the Union Budget in Delhi last month. Thakur had even made the suggestion that apple be excluded from the list of fruits and other commodities brought under the Open General License.

"Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had himself promised to increase the import duty on apple when he had come to Himachal ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Seven years have gone by, but nothing has been done on this front. It is very disappointing and discouraging for the apple growers," said Harish Chauhan, president of the Himachal Pradesh Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Growers Association.

Also, there's no relief on the rising cost of packaging material. "The GST on apple cartons has been increased to 12 per cent from 5 per cent. As a result, the cost of cartons has also gone up, adding to the ever-increasing input cost," he said.

Sanjay Chauhan, an apple grower, felt the continuous cut back on subsidies on pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers would put the apple industry under a lot of stress. "The rising cost of chemicals and fertilisers is making apple production almost unsustainable. No relief has been provided on this count, too," he said.

Besides, the absence of any incentive/subsidies on building small-scale storage facilities has also come as a dampener for apple growers.

Bisht, however, did see some silver lining in the largely disappointing Budget. "The increase in the incentives to farmer product companies and reduction of GST and surcharge on cooperative societies could be seen as a comforting step," he added.

Promised, not delivered

  • Import duty on apple unchanged at 50%
  • GST on apple cartons hiked to 12% from 5%
  • Subsidies on pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers cut
  • No incentive/subsidies on building small-scale storage facilities
Courtesy: Tribune News Service

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