Incomplete fruit markets in J&K

Any move towards increasing agricultural output in Jammu and Kashmir would be half hearted and virtually perfunctory without proper marketing opportunities and reasonably adequate marketing facilities as well. If we analyse the utility of the Horticulture Department towards Jammu and Kashmir’s Gross Domestic Product, it is oscillating between 9 to 9.5 per cent with a positive development of more areas brought under fruit cultivation and again, the annual production of fruits being nearly over 25 lakh MTs., therefore, accords its own importance to fruit production and its trade. Fruits generally grown are apples, pears, cherries, apricots etc in Kashmir valley and mangoes, litchi, papaya, citrus, guava etc in Jammu region besides world famous saffron grown in both the regions. Dry fruits like walnuts, almonds etc grown are usually exported.
The stark fact also is that this vital industry related to agriculture, otherwise classified as priority sector for purposes of providing Bank credit and other incentives, budgetary allocations have not been commensurate with its requirements. It also is a fact that the Government has been directly procuring apples etc from the farmers through Government run National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation and making payment through Direct Bank Transfer (DBT) to growers to tide over the issues relating to marketing due to specific reasons. Needless to add, apple production and its contribution singularly to the economy of the UT particularly in respect of generating employment opportunities are enormous. However, the other aspect that of providing fruit markets laced with the requisite facilities in both the regions by the UT Government according to the requirements of the traders has not been done so far resulting in affecting its trade proportionately adversely.
It may be the fruit and vegetable market at village Chak Avtara in Bishnah in Jammu or the fruit markets in Shopian and Anantnag in Kashmir , the position is that of either the markets being for the name sake or not completed at all due to the antagonistic approaches by the concerned departments towards the issue. The issue about the ambiguities of the proper title of the land at Bishnah is coming in the way of according sanction to building construction while the same was not either handled properly initially or vital issues that the Executive Officer, Municipal Committee is raising not looked into at the time of acquiring it . How the Horticulture Department acquired the land if it had a defective title or the subordinate revenue agencies having not given the NOC presumably for that reason. Payment for the land having already been given from the public funds and some constructions too having been done and allotment of shops too been made but the marketing activities not taking place looks strange. In the same way, the decision of the Government to build much hyped state of the art fruit markets in south Kashmir’s Shopian and Anantnag districts respectively continue to remain incomplete as only auction sheds are visible, road approach to these markets is not developed , facilities for storage are not there and crops are heaped up in the open, no banking facilities and the like, therefore, these markets cannot be called even ordinary markets let alone state of the art markets.
About the market in Bijbehara , in district Anantnag about which ‘Excelsior’ had through these columns last year drawn the attention of the authorities towards the lack of facilities in it which continue to be not addressed even after years of wait and yearning for the market by the apple growers and traders is unexpected. Fruits being perishable by nature need proper and speedy marketing mechanism. Proper facilities for parking of trucks and other vehicles, loading and unloading of the fruits in orderly and hassles free manner have yet to visit this market forcing most of the traders to operate from far off places to the detriment of the trade in itself.
There could be some other cogent reasons for the administration too in not developing these markets as envisaged and planned or expected by the traders but looking to the role of the Horticulture Department towards contributing to the economy of Jammu and Kashmir and earning a distinct place in the national fruit market, the vast employment opportunities direct and indirect generated by this industry, the Government should develop the fruit markets as early as possible keeping in view the aspirations of all the stake -holders.