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How Climate Change Impacted Himachal Pradesh’s Apple Production

Apple trade accounts for more than five per cent of Himachal Pradesh's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It was one of the sectors worst affected by climatic conditions in 2023

Himachal Pradesh experienced various incidents of landslides and cloudbursts between March and August of 2023, that caused severe damage to not only homes, cars and roads, but also the state's apple production. The apple trade, which accounts for over five per cent of the state's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was among the sectors worst affected by the havoc.

The fall in apple production is directly linked to the extreme weather patterns that the state witnessed in 2023. The heavy rains are an expected outcome of a warming world.

Apple is a temperate crop, requiring a cold climate; it relies on monsoon and snow for the finest produce. However, in 2023, the orchards faced a double whammy of little to no snowfall in the winter season, followed by rain at the flowering stage and hailstorms and landslides when the fruit was fully grown.

According to the Centre for Science and Environment Report, 'India 2023: An assessment of extreme weather events', between January 1 and September 30, 2023, Himachal Pradesh reported 75,760 hectares of crop area damage.

Pranav Rawat, a third-generation apple cultivator from Shimla in Himachal Pradesh, said that apple cultivators in Himachal Pradesh are now shifting to dwarf apple trees which bear fruits between two to three years after plantation.

Mr Rawat believes this is the result of the clearing up of forests for human greed. He suggests reforestation to bring back rain, and snow and enhance the apple production in the state.

On the other hand, Hari Chand Roach, an 86-year-old veteran farmer from Kotgarh village said that the one stop solution is to shift to varieties having low-chilling requirements. Another practice being followed by the apple producers in the state is branch grafting for fruit tree propagation, the process that helps produce fruits in half the time. But Mr Roach emphasises on the requirement of cold temperatures, sunshine in order to have the maximum produce.

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