Himachal Pradesh farmers were urged by the experts to concentrate on organic farming in order to increase the output of the apples, which has been alarmingly dropping due to the use of chemical fertilizer.
So says a team of Swiss and Indian experts who have just ended their field trip to the hill state to raise awareness about the need for adopting organic farming.
Apple is the main cash crop of Himachal Pradesh and, along with neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir and Uttaranchal, the state accounts for almost the entire apple production of the country.
But the Indian apple is not able to compete with the best in the international market as its quality is far behind the fruit grown by organic methods particularly in countries like Switzerland.
"The heavy use of chemical fertiliser and pesticide by Himachal apple farmers has degraded the soil of the orchards and damaged the ecosystem. Because of that the inputs have been going up, but the output has been dropping steadily for farmers," said Samuel B. Moser, a Swiss expert.
"The pattern is the same in Jammu and Kashmir and Uttaranchal as well," Moser added.
"During our weeklong awareness campaign we surprisingly found 80 farmers already practising organic farming on the orchards with good results. But this is only a microscopic minority," said Tej Pratap Singh, executive director of the International Competency Centre for Organic Farming in Bangalore.
"Actually the advantage of adopting organic farming is twofold as it reduces cost and raises production," Singh said.
"Even though the state government has done little to promote and manufacture organic fertiliser, farmers can take the initiative and produce organic manure on their farms," said Singh.
The experts said the Indian apple must be produced organically instead of chemically on a large scale in order to compete in the international market.
This would not only fetch higher returns but help in greatly restoring the eco-system damaged due to the use of harmful chemical fertiliser and pesticide.
"China, the world's largest producer of apples, has already started producing the fruit with the help of organic farming in a big way as it is more in demand in the international market. So must India," said Singh.