The frequent snowfall that led to snow covering the apple orchards in Himachal Pradesh has brought hopes of a bountiful output among growers this season. Apple productions have been below normal in the last two years. In 2012, over 20 million boxes of apples of 20 kg each were harvested in Himachal Pradesh that is one-fifth less than the normal yield of 25 million boxes.
Upper Shimla that is responsible for 80 percent of total apple production in the state, has received more than three feet of snow. Enough snowfall will increase moisture content in the soil and it will help the apple plants that are in dormancy period to get sufficient nutrients during summer.
Snow helps to maintain the minimum chilling period of 1000 to 1600 hours for an apple orchard. A healthy apple plant requires chilling at this time of development with temperatures around seven degrees. Snowfall will lower the risk of premature bud breaking and flowering during mid-March.
In some areas such as Thanedar, Kotgarh and Kharapathar, orchards have been destroyed by snowfall but government officials ruled out an early impact calculation at this moment. Apple production is a major source of income for the state where more than 200,000 families are engaged in the fruit's cultivation. The apple industry is worth over Rs 2,000 crore. Apple forms 80 percent of total fruit production in the state that are generally harvested between July and November.
The uncertain weather remains a regular battle for apple farmers. Prolonged dry spells during monsoon season dwarfs the fruit that usually leads to decline in production. Hailstorms, heavy rains, strong winds and too much heat affect hopes of the apple growers of a good harvest. According to the state department estimates, 20 to 30 percent of vegetables and fruits get damaged due to hailstorm every year.
Photograph by Shahnoor Habib