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Almond bloom after 12 years
Kashmiri boats make a formation that reads 350 on the International Day of Climate Action on the Dal Lake in Srinagar on Saturday. The display is part of the 350 global campaign, which calls for a reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide to the safe threshold of 350 parts per million. (AP)

Srinagar, Oct. 24: After 12 long years, the almonds bloomed full again.

For the first time since 1997, perfect weather conditions sent the almond yield soaring beyond 13,000 tonnes in Kashmir.

The numbers, however, don’t reveal the full picture. The flowers of almonds herald the beginning of spring and the bloom draws crowds from far and wide, brightening the tourist landscape.

Erratic weather meant the Valley missed that spring for over a decade.

Today, there’s a spring in the steps of those who man the state’s horticulture department.

“The yield was good last year as well, but the bloom was more pronounced this year. Not only has production increased by 20 per cent in the last two years, the quality of the kernels is also superb,” said state official Manzoor Ahmad Bhat, an expert in pomology, the branch of horticulture that focuses on cultivation of fruits, especially tree fruits.

Bhat said the increased yield was because of good snowfall in January and February, which left the soil with good moisture content.

Bees, too, played their part.

“In March, the weather was dry, allowing prominent sunshine hours because of which bee activity for cross-pollination was at its fullest,” Bhat said.

Bees, horticulture officials explained, are the agents of pollination in almonds, whose flowers appear in March. September is the month of harvest.

Bhat said the last time the Valley saw such perfect weather for almonds was in 1997. “Either there was little or no snowfall in winter (December to February), or there was more rain during March. This year the months from January to March behaved as they would before 1997,” he said.

Amin Bin Khaliq, an exporter of dry fruits, said the almonds were fetching them a decent price. “A kilogram of almonds would sell for Rs 100 to Rs 105 last year but is fetching us Rs 130 to Rs 140 now. The reason is the kernels have a very good quality.”

Walnut production in the Valley also rose by around 10 per cent to 1.35 lakh tonnes this year but, unlike almonds, there had been an increase in the walnut crop area.

It wasn’t full bloom, though, for all fruits. Officials said weather conditions were not right for fresh fruits like apple this year, leading to a decline in yield.

But the almonds have lifted the spirits of officials of the state tourism department, which has been showcasing the full bloom to draw tourists during the lean month of March.

Srinagar’s almond alcove, among the most famous picnic spots in the Valley but in ruins after years of neglect, was revived two years back as part of efforts to woo tourists.

The officials hope this weather pattern will hold, but Bhat was more pragmatic. “Our snowfall, rainfall and temperature pattern is consistently changing,” he said. “We don’t know how it will be the next year or after that.”

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