The untimely heavy spell of snow has caused a huge loss to apple trees and fruit and vegetable crops in Lahaul-Spiti district, leaving farmers in despair.
'A big chunk of apple trees, broccoli, cauliflowers, iceberg lettuce and potatoes have perished in snow', said Suresh Vidyarthi, a farmer from Udaipur in the lower Pattan valley, the first area to start apple cultivation here in the 1990s.
'Due to climate change, we have been facing freak spells of snow round the year', said Amar Singh, another farmer. According to the preliminary estimate, more than 95 per cent of apple trees and crop have perished in the recent untimely snow, said Ashwani Chaudhary, District Commissioner.
'We are assessing the damage, but most of the apple trees and fruit, cauliflowers, harvested potato crop have been destroyed in snow,’ he added.
From Mudgram in the lower Pattan valley to Jispa village in Bhaga and Shashin village in the Chandra valley, it is a picture of broken apple trees with fruit either dropped on the ground or hanging on broken branches, said Duni Chand, a farmer.
The freak spells of snowfall have made apple cultivation in the high altitude difficult as there is no remedy to take care of the natural disaster, said Dr ML Dhiman, Director, and Horticulture.
The Vice-Chancellor Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Prof H C Sharma, said the farmers needed to diversify to walnuts, sea buckthorn and they needed to be trained to grow shorter apple trees with sturdy branches.
The Agriculture Minister and Lahaul-Spiti legislator, Dr Ram Lal Markanda, who has been taking stock of losses and monitoring the rescue and restoration works, said, 'Farmers have been hit as the apple trees and vegetable crops have perished. The losses are being assessed and only after communication, power and road connectivity is restored, we can get clear picture.'