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25-40% orchards damaged in southern districts: officials.

Javed Ahmad gently shakes off snow from the branches of apple trees in his devastated orchard in Shopian district. He is one of thousands of apple growers in southern Kashmir whose orchards suffered significant damage due to the recent snowfall.

The early snowfall has spelt doom for apple orchards in all four southern districts of Kashmir—Shopian, Pulwma, Kulgam and Anantnag.A senior horticulture officer at Shopian said 30-40 per cent apple crop has suffered damage in Shopian. However, the damage is more than 70 per cent in far-off villages like Heerpora, Sedow, KaniporaBihrihalan, Padpawan and Reshnagri.

Javed Ahmad said 74 out of the 100 trees in his orchard have been damaged. Gul Mohammad, a fruit grower of Heerpora village of Shopian, said many growers in the area had yet to harvest their crop and the snow caused much damage to it as well.

The early snowfall has also caused a huge damage to apple orchards in the neighbouringPulwama district. The areas which were worst hit included Sangarwani, Below, Rajpora, Payar, Arihal and some other villages.

Pulwama chief horticulture officer Rajesh Kotwal, however, said losses are still being assessed in the district.According to the chief horticulture officer Kulgam, 40 per cent damages have been recorded in the district. He said the worst hit villages are Manzgam, Kund, DK Marg, Yaripora and Kader.

Mohammad Yasin, chief horticulture officer Anantnag, told  a damage of 25-30 per cent had been recorded in the district as per preliminary assessment. He said the areas where the orchards suffered significant damage are Mehand, Sirgufwara, Sallar-Kollar, Shalgam, Sirhama, Budur, Lever and many villages in Shangus and Kokernag constituencies of the district. The fruit growers have also become worried as most of the harvested crop still lies in their orchards.Khursheed Ahmad Turey, an orchardist of Shopian, said that snow had caused delay in the packaging which may cause damage to the already plucked fruit.

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