Indian Apple Farmers in Himachal Pradesh Protest Tax Hike

© Photo : Photo Credit: SKMApple Cultivator Protesting In July, Shimla city
Apple Cultivator Protesting In July,  Shimla city  - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.08.2022
Approximately 20 percent of the state population is directly or indirectly involved in apple cultivation, manufacturing or selling. Over 90% of production goes to the domestic market.
Apple farmers from India’s Himachal Pradesh state are protesting after the central government raised the goods and service tax (GST) on fruit packaging.
Talks to resolve the tax dispute between the BJP-led Himachal government and apple producers are reported to be “inconclusive” so far, as authorities keep an eye on the November state elections.
The state's apple grower associations - grouped under the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) umbrella body of all farmers' unions - have been protesting in several districts since June 27.
They also plan to protest at the state legislative assembly in the capital city of Shimla on August 5.
Dr. Ashok Samal, an apple grower who has participated in the protests, told Sputnik that the new tax disproportionately targets the industry.
“The government increased the goods and service tax on [fruit] cartons from 12 to 18 percent. Unlike other fruits or vegetables, apples need to be placed in boxes,” he said.
According to Samal, apple producers will struggle to bear the higher taxes, with a massive drop in income expected.
“GST on cartons was introduced almost three years ago, which was 12 percent on every product like farming equipment, pesticides, etc. But, at the same time, apple production was badly hit due to climate, rain and no snowfall in the state,” he explained.

Why Apple Prices Are Plummeting?

Horticulture expert S.P. Bharadwaj similarly told Sputnik that traditional and premium quality apples require 1,000 hours of snow. But, for the past five years, Himachal Pradesh has been receiving significantly less snow, impacting the quality and price of the product.
This year alone, 30 percent of apple crops were damaged after a brutal heatwave led to cracks, spots or stunted growth, Bhardwaj explained.
These ‘grade B’ and ‘grade C’ apples were not sold in the main market.
Likewise, the market has been flooded with cheaper Iranian apples for the past two years.
© Photo : Photo Credit: SKMApple Cultivator Protesting On 25 July In Himachal Pradesh
Apple Cultivator Protesting On 25 July In Himachal Pradesh - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.08.2022
Apple Cultivator Protesting On 25 July In Himachal Pradesh
For his part, crop cultivator Mohit Janartha demanded wider government support for the industry.
“We are also demanding subsidies from the state on the purchase of agriculture equipment, fertilizers, etc. to bring down their increasing input cost,” Mohit Janartha, a crop cultivator, said.
Himachal Pradesh State Chief Jai Ram Thakur met the SKM farmers' front on August 28. He assured them that farmers would be compensated for the six percent GST hike.
He also promised to form a committee to look into farmers' matters. However, the SKM has expressed dissatisfaction with the state chief's assurances and has called a gherao (protest) outside the state assembly.
In response, the state government has also announced a six percent subsidy on cartons from the Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Produce Marketing and Processing Corporation (HPMC) from July 15. This move, however, has failed to appease farmers.
“We have told the government that even after subsidy, the HPMC carton rate is higher than the market rate. And, the second solution to transfer the six percent in cultivators bank is too technical. As we don’t get bills while buying cartons, how would we submit documents?”
“Moreover, for the last three years we have complained to the horticulture department about the deteriorating crop quality. No action was taken and now four months before elections, the state government has awakened,” Dr. Sawal added.
© Photo : Photo Credit: SKMApple Cultivator Protesting On 25 July, Shimla
Apple Cultivator Protesting On 25 July, Shimla  - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.08.2022
Apple Cultivator Protesting On 25 July, Shimla
The SKM has threatened to boycott the upcoming state election if their demands are not met.
The hilly state has about 115,000 hectares of apple orchards and produced 1.4 billion kg of apples in 2019-20. Approximately 27 of the 68 state districts are dominated by farmer families.
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