Cherry growers fear heavy losses amid Coronavirus

No takers for cherry crop this season as pandemic lockdown has hit the supply chain in Kashmir. —Excelsior/Shakeel
No takers for cherry crop this season as pandemic lockdown has hit the supply chain in Kashmir. —Excelsior/Shakeel

Suhail Bhat

Srinagar, May 24: The cherry growers in Kashmir fear heavy losses this year as the entire supply chain has been disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic and nationwide lockdown.
The lockdown which has been implemented to curb the spread of the deadly COVID-19 infection in the Valley along with other parts of the country has badly hit the cherry industry in Kashmir owing to the closing of all markets, retail shops and transport services.
With the introduction of a high-density variety of cherry, Abdul Qayoom, an orchardist said that they were expecting a better returns this year, but the pandemic has ruined the whole season. “Everyone is scared to move around due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The transporters, laborers, and the buyers are all sacred to venture out of their homes. In such a scenario, how will we sell our produce?”, he asked.
Amid the harvesting season, he said, the growers are facing a shortage of packing boxes and the workers. “We are unable to find the packing boxes and laborers, who used to come from outside the Valley but did not come this time. We could not get pesticides for our crop this year. There is good produce this year,” he said. He, however, blamed the Government for showing a cold shoulder to the growers.
“Government is not doing anything to help us out. The Mandis are open for two hours only. What can we do in two hours? It is impossible to sell a crop in such a short period of time as many steps are involved,” he said.
“Excessive snowfall that Valley received at the beginning of the year led to damage to the trees and now we are facing immense problems due to the lockdown,” another grower, Mohamamd Raman, from Harwan on the outskirts of Srinagar said. The other areas where the crop grows include Ganderbal, Tangmarg and Shopian.
According to official figures, the cherry yield was 11,789 MT and 11,000 MT in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Being highly perishable around 50% of the crop is transported every year through refrigerated vans to outside markets. As per the officials, figures around 400 MT was transported by road through refrigerated vans last year. Besides, 400 MT more was ferried in trains and 900 MT by air, the officials said.
Director Horticulture, Aijaz Ahmad Bhat told Excelsior that they have sent a proposal for the transportation of the crop and are awaiting a response. “We have sent a proposal to the Government. They might use refrigerated trucks to ferry the crop to outside markets,” he said. Besides, he added that there are around 21 canning units in Kashmir where a good quantity would be processed.