New Delhi: With an annual turnover of around 3000 crore, apples constitute an important part of Himachal Pradesh's economy, which makes FDI in multibrand retail an important issue among the state's apple-growers. The state's apple belt straddles several districts. No wonder then, that most pre-poll sops are announced keeping this constituency of apple-growers in mind.
While the BJP government in the state has said no to FDI, the farmers remain divided over it. Aadesh, who runs a 3500-tree orchard, feels the state government should not oppose FDI in multi-brand retail. He expects big retailers to help improve apple storage and transportation and reduce his losses. "Around Kullu, say 200 km, there is not a single cold chain. The crop which can be logistically put into a cold storage is not being done right now," says Aadesh.
However, 29-year old Tikka Ram does not agree. "Cold storage is going to cost us. The government is not going to pay for it, will they?" he asks. Tikka Ram has a small apple orchard of 80 trees. He feels FDI would open apple imports and while large apple growers could compete, small farmers may not survive.
Experts say the opposition to FDI by some apple farmers may be because Himachalis haven't been properly informed. "Politicians have decided to bring FDI into the state without preparing the people for that. It's true for himachal. We haven't prepared the people to compete in this new global world. We haven't equipped to compete, so they fear getting pushed to the margins," says an expert.