Apple makes way for pomegranate in Himachal

Himachal Pradesh is famously known as the 'Apple State of India'. But the state is now clutching the title nervously with global warming taking a toll on the traditional varieties of the fruit both in terms of quality and quantity.

With both demand and supply of the apples steadily going down, a group of innovative and courageous farmers decided to grow something that could bear the ravages of climatic fluctuations they chose pomegranate (anar).

Just across Aut, the natural gateway to the Kullu valley, they have grown pomegranate orchards all along the banks of the Beas.

Significantly, most of these new plantations have come up in place of apple orchards. A good number of them are fresh orchards as well.

Meet Daljeet Singh, 52, a post-graduate, who took up farming some two decades ago with the cultivation of hybrid tomatoes. After a successful stint with Kiwi fruit, Daljeet led from the front in pomegranate cultivation. Soon, more than 200 farmers in the area replicated Daljeet's experiment and are now producing some of the best varieties of pomegranate. This was in addition to kiwi, apricot, plum, pears and apples that they were already producing.

Their success is inspiring. It's been only little over half a decade since the farmers began commercial cultivation of pomegranate in the Kullu's rain-shadow area between Aut and Raison, and the production near Manali, for instance, has already exceeded 20 trucks. Nearly 5 to 10 per cent of the produce is also picked by a Jalgaon-based company of Maharshatra that produces fruit wines.

With pomegranate production increasing every year, more and more companies have begun thronging the area. Last year, the farmers sold pomegranates at the rate of Rs 80 per kg. The low-grade ones were bought by winery units at Rs 50 per kg.

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