Pest-infested Iranian kiwis threaten Kashmiri apples

The valley’s apple dealers write to horticulture experts and the Ministry of Agriculture

The import of Iranian kiwis from Afghanistan to India has posed a major concern for apple dealers in Kashmir following a contagious quarantine pest threat found earlier this month in New Delhi.

Majid Aslam Wafai, president of the J&K Processing and Integrated Cold Chain Association (JK-PICCA), has written to Dr. Sarafarz Ahmad Wad, Director-Research of the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Science and Technology, to initiate analysis of samples of Iranian kiwis flooding the Kashmiri market and mixing with the locally harvested apples.

“We request an analysis report and supervision on whether the import of Iranian fruit may affect or destroy our horticultural produce and orchards, in order to enable us to follow up on the case for remedial measures,” Mr. Wafai said.

Alarm bells were set off in Kashmir, which produces 71% of the country’s apples, after the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO), a body under the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, wrote to Iran on December 7, 2021 about the incidence of two quarantine pests, Aspidiotus nerd and Aonidella aurantii, in many shipments of kiwis from Iran.

The Indian government has already conveyed to Iran that “the phytosanitary certificates issued by the NPPO, Iran, for fresh kiwi fruits shall not be entertained from our end from December 8, 2021”.

“Iran is also exporting apples to India from orchards which have been affected by these pests, along with others like Codling Moth. We believe they have the potential of destroying and damaging our orchards too,” Mr. Wafai said in the letter.

Experts in Kashmir say the ‘codling moth’, are highly dependent on fruits than leaves as a food source, are among the major pest threats for fruits, especially apples and pears.

Meanwhile, the apple dealers of Kashmir have also written to Union Minister Narendra Singh and flagged the issue of “import of Iran’s fresh apple illegally and unlawfully under the trade name of Afghan apple and misusing the free trade agreement (FTA)”.

“Pests entering in the territory of any apple producing State shall be a catastrophe for local farmers,” they warned. They have demanded a complete ban on import of apples from Iran “till the quarantine pest issue is resolved”.

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