HPSUS shows concerns on import of virus infected apple root stock



The Himachal Pradesh Seb Utpadak Sanghh (HPSUS) showed concern over the import of virus infected apple root stock by the State Government and role of middle man to supply in-quarantine apple plants in this hill state. President HPSUS Mr. Rakesh Singha said, “There are reasons to believe the Rs. 5.50 Crore Horticulture Development Project under which apple root stock has been imported has created serious suspicion amongst the farmers on the quality of the plant material as it is infected by viruses.”


He said that it is the duty of the Horticulture Department to remove all kind of suspicions beyond all doubt on the quality of the imported plants, which are undergoing post entry quarantine. Every farmer, who practices root stock cultivation is aware of East Malling and Long Ashton Research Centre in England having developed Emla Clones which are free of “latent as well as other viruses which infect apple plants reducing their productivity considerably.”


Then why has the Horticulture Department imported Non-Emla clones, which are not virus free? The statement of the Horticulture Department “of providing quality plant material” to the farmers is a mere statement which does not stand the test of logic as the M(Malling) & MM (Malling Merton) Clones of root stocks are not virus free which have been imported by the Horticulture Department under the Rs. 5.50 Crores Horticulture Development Project.


The apprehensions expressed by the Progressive Growers Associations are valid and cannot be brushed aside.It is correct disease like Phyotoplasma and fire blight will be the “last nail in the coffin” of apple cultivation in Himachal Pradesh. A number of imported apple plants having been infected by apple Chlorotic leaf spot and spy Epinasty viruses, stem pitting virus, and apple Mosaic Virus, raises serious doubt on the quality of imported plant material. It is not a satisfactory answer being provided by the horticulture department to state that these viruses are already existing in Himachal Pradesh from before.


The Himachal Seb Utpadak Sangh (HPSUS) is of the opinion, all farmer organization involved in organizing the apple farmers must be taken in confidence to set the agenda of improving and rejuvenating the apple industry in the State. It is the farmers practicing apple cultivation in the state who are well aware of the problems and steps required for quality production.They are only handicapped because of lack of resources which they do not possess for quality cultivation.


The horticulture department must also give a logical answer as to why they have engaged middlemen to import plant material from Italy. What amount of commission is being provided to the Indo-Dutch Company to import the plant material should be made public. The Horticulture Department must be answerable to the farmers for the imported plant material which does not qualify the ingredients of the international standards, he demanded.

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ML Verma is a Senior journalist, with more than a decade of experience of active reporting for electronic media, news agencies and fast paced online media.

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