Himachal Apple Farms Hit Thrice Over By GST, Note Ban & Middlemen
With Himachal elections days away, the apple farmers have no support from the BJP or Congress as they go to polls.
Untimely hailstorms affected the quality of almost 50 percent of the apples in Himachal. To make matters worse, the farmers are being hit hard by the central government schemes of GST and demonetisation, along with the age-old problem of middlemen taking their cuts.
Sandeep Janartha, an apple farmer who owns an orchard in Rohru and lives in Shimla, said that 8 November, the day demonetisation was announced, was a cursed day.
Before demonetisation was announced, a maximum of 50 percent of transactions in the apple industry were done with black money and today, black money continues to be used. However, there isn’t as much fluid cash available in the market for transactions. Due to this, last year’s payment and this year’s payments are stuck for many. At least 30 lakh rupees of mine are stuck in the market this year.Sandeep Janartha, Apple Farmer
In the apple industry, single transactions can run into the lakhs - as buyers buy in bulk - and note ban has severely affected the availability of this cash in the market. Sandeep isn’t the only one whose money is caught in the market.
On top of that, the GST has increased costs for the apple growers.
Dr Omkar Shah, who owns an apple orchard in Theog, says:
On cartons that are used to package apples there is an 18 percent GST, and in the chemicals and fertilisers used, there is 5 to 12 percent GST. This has already escalated costs. One box of apples which cost Rs 40, now costs Rs 50.
While GST and the note ban have already caused issues, the age-old practice of exploitation by middlemen continues. The Himachal Pradesh government plays a near-invisible role in the growing, packaging and sale of apples in the state, thereby giving the middleman - locally called the aarathi or the dalal - ample space and opportunity to profit at the cost of the growers.
Praveen Kumar, an apple farmer from Kalpa, Himachal Pradesh says apple transactions are mostly done privately. “We can sell to the government firm HPMC, but only what is left in the end.” He adds that their purchase is very limited and only lasts for a month.
Praveen says the farmers are being looted.
The aarathi’s are looting and other middlemen are exploiting apple orchardists because there is no control from the government or other agencies to check and balance for the interests of the farmers.Praveen Kumar, Apple Farmer
Apple farmers have been certainly hit by the Centre’s dual decisions of GST and notebandi, but the state’s invisibility in managing transactions has exacerbated anger against the Himachal Pradesh government.
In the apple-growing districts of Himachal, Kinnaur, Mandi, Chamba, Sirmaur, Lahaul-Spiti, Shimla and Kullu, neither party has won the favour of apple farmers.
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
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