Apple growers suffer losses, few takers for Govt scheme

A deserted view of Fruit Mandi in Sopore.
A deserted view of Fruit Mandi in Sopore.

Fayaz Bukhari
SOPORE, Sept 15: Around 35 lakh people associated with the apple industry in Kashmir are suffering crores of rupees losses due to Government’s clampdown and threatening posters asking them not to open the markets.
The Fruit Mandi in apple town of Sopore, largest apple market in the country, is usually packed full of apple boxes, people and trucks this time of the year but today it is locked and deserted with no grower bringing his produce in the market.
The Sopore Fruit market has 1100 traders and usually it processes around 400,000 boxes of apple every day. However, some traders are operating from their homes and their offices to send fruit to the outside fruit markets but they have no idea what is fetches them as they are not able to communicate with the outside traders.
The Parimpora fruit market in Srinagar also lays locked and empty and so are the fruit markets in Shopian, Anantnag and Pulwama.
Despite the fruit markets being closed, sources said around 300 apple trucks are leaving Kashmir valley for various fruit markets of the country daily. However, at this time of the year normally 600 trucks with apple were daily being exported from Kashmir.
A trader at Sopore, Shabir Ahmad, told Excelsior that there was trade going on during the night and trucks were going outside fruit markets with apple two weeks ago but the Government wanted the fruit market to be open during the day as well. “They asked us to either shut down or open the market during day time as well which finally led to the shutting down of the Mandi”, he said.
He said that they are caught between militants and Government clampdown. “We are suffering huge losses. Three of our traders were shot at in Sopore by militants last week which has led to fear psychosis. Militant posters are appearing in the area asking us to close down the market. How can we do business under these circumstances?”, he asked.
A trader Ghulam Rasool said that communication blackout has led to huge losses. “I sent pear last month to Delhi market and had no communication with the traders there. It fetched me just Rs 135 per box, when the cost of packing and freight alone was Rs 150. This all happened due to communication clampdown”, he said.
Another grower said over 50 traders used to come to Kashmir from Bangladesh for purchasing the American variety of apple but this year only 2 came due to clampdown. “They are offering very low prices and it is better to let the apple rot than to sell it at loss”, he said.
Government last week announced a plan to procure some 60% of Kashmir’s apple produce this year. The rates that have been fixed are Rs 52, Rs 36 and Rs 15 per kilogramme for A, B and C grade delicious variety of apple respectively; Rs 48, Rs 32 and Rs 18 per kilogramme for A, B and C grade American variety of apple respectively and Rs 40, Rs 25 and Rs 19 per kilogramme for A, B and C grade Maharaji variety of apple respectively.
The growers are not satisfied with the rates and there seem to be very few takers for the Government scheme. “Who will sell the apples at this rate? We get around Rs 75-Rs 80 per kilogramme for delicious variety of A grade apple here in Sopore only”, said Javed Ahmad, a trader said.
A senior official at Baramulla said that only five apple growers have registered themselves with the Government for selling the apple crop. However, Ajaz Ahmad Bhat, Director Horticulture Department said that 150 farmers have registered for the Government scheme in Sopore. He said they are reaching out to more farmers in other markets. “The scheme has just begun, it will gain momentum in coming days”, he said.
Some growers said that they have taken advances from the traders and how can they sell the apple to Government. On the issue, the Director said the Government did not want to disturb those arrangements. “This is an additional facility,” he said.