Hit by pesticides

Cheap pesticides and fungicides have led to the spread of many diseases in the Kashmir valley

Published: Tuesday 30 November 1999

the use of cheap pesticides and fungicides have affected fruit production in the Kashmir Valley. Instead of halting the premature loss of foliage and fruit fall, use of these pesticides have led to the spread of many diseases in apple orchards. Farmers in the Baramulla district say that a large number of apple trees have been chopped down as they had dried up.

Rampant use of these pesticides has killed off insects that prey on species that live off the fruit trees, says G A Dar, secretary, department of agriculture and horticulture, Jammu and Kashmir government. As a result, these species have multiplied and the resulting pest attack has caused orchard owners huge financial losses. They allege that due to the state government's free trade policy, cheap pesticides and fungicides are finding their way to the valley.

"Most of the growers are illiterate and they easily get lured by cheap pesticides," says Bashir Ahmad Bashir, general secretary of the All Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers and Dealers Union. "Besides, some companies use novel methods to dupe unwary growers like altering the spelling of trade names to resemble that of major companies," he adds.

Some people say that there is a syndicate involved. The modus operandi is very simple. "They manufacture these pesticides and fungicides in Gujarat and Mumbai and then export it to the valley. As they are hand-in-glove with sales tax officials at Lakhanpur check-post, the trucks carrying these fungicides and pesticides are given easy passage," says Ghulam Rasool Bhat, president of the Baramulla Fruit Growers and Dealers' Association.

After receiving a number of complaints, the government launched a massive crackdown on spurious fungicide-dealers across the valley. According to officials, of 206 samples collected in the valley by the horticulture department, 180 samples were sent to state laboratories outside the state for analysis and 26 were tested in the state.

So far, 89 reports have been received from the external laboratories, while all 26 reports from the various state-run laboratories have been received. Of them, 12 samples were found to be fakes which have been banned. According to Buch, the brand names of the chemicals which were substandard were published in the local newspapers.

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