Realizing the importance of apple in the State economy, the present Congress Government is making all out efforts to boost apple production by introducing high yielding varieties and strengthening the marketing network with active co-operation of the growers.
Undoubtedly, the apple has brought prosperity to the State which is contributing around Rs. 3200 Crore to the State Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Himachal Pradesh is also known as ‘Apple State of India’ and it is the major fruit crop of the State which constitutes about 49 percent of the total area under fruit crop and about 87 percent of the total fruit production. Area under apple has increased from 400 hectare in 1950-51 to 3,025 hectare in 1960-61 and 1,06,440 hectares in 2012-13.
The commercial cultivation of apple dates back to 80-90 years, when Shri Satya Nand Stokes from Philadelphia, USA introduced the popular delicious varieties in 1918 in Kotgarh of Shimla District. It has been found to be the most viable and sustainable option for the livelihood of farmers especially the small and marginal ones. Shimla, Kullu, Kinnaur, Chamba, Mandi and Sirmaur are the major apple growing districts in the State.
During the recent past, there has been an increasing interest and trend in production of apples not only in high hill areas but also in the lower parts of the State. This has been possible due to the exhaustive research being carried by horticulture scientists to motivate farmers of the lower areas to cultivate and plant the apples by taking inspiration from the successful experimental efforts made by the progressive farmers. The State Government is also motivating the farmers to diversify their cropping pattern and adopt modern modes by cultivating fast growing species of apple and other fruits so that their economy is strengthen.
The area under apple has increased from 84112 hectare in 2003-04 to 86202 hectare in 2004-05, 88560 hectares in 2005-06 to 91804 hectares in 2006-07, 94726 hectares in 2007-08 to 97438 hectares in 2008-09, 99564 hectares in 2009-10 and 103644 hectares in 2010-11 to 103644 hectares in 2011-12. Similarly, the production of apple has also increased from 459492 MT in 2003-04 to 527601 MT in 2004-05, 540356 MT in 2005-06 to 268402 MT in 2006-07, 592576 MT in 2007-08 to 510161MT in 2008-09, 280105 MT in 2009-10 to 892112 MT in 2010-11 and 275036 MT in 2011-12 in the State. Although, quality apples can normally be grown in areas located at altitudes ranging between 1800-2700 m above main sea level which experience 1000-1600 chilling hours during winter and average temperature during growing season remains around 21-24 degree Celsius.
To enhance apple productivity, guidelines for 'Apple Rejuvenation Project' have been simplified. The project is being implemented under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna, under which old apple orchards are being rejuvenated and replaced with the new, improved and regular bearing spur varieties. 1500 hectare area is being brought under revamped 'Apple Rejuvenation Project' during year 2014-15. Orchards covered under the scheme will necessarily have 30 percent pollenisers and micro irrigation facilities. An additional area of 1000 hectare is being covered under micro-irrigation during 2014-15.
To protect fruit crops especially apple from hailstorms, the State Government has enhanced subsidy on Anti Hail nets from 50 percent to 80 percent out of which 30 percent is being borne by the State Government. An area of 23.5 Lakh sq. meters was covered under anti hail nets during 2013 to May 2014. During the year 2014-15, additional area of 15 lakh square meters is being brought under protection from hail storm by providing quality Anti-Hail Nets to the orchardists.
To ensure remunerative prices of apple produce of growers, 34229 MT 'C' grade apple fruit valued to Rs. 22.25 crore was procured under Market Intervention Scheme during 2013-14. The procurement price of apple has been increase by 50 paise per kg under MIS over the previous year.