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Kashmir's apple industry facing crisis during 'peak' season, seeks govt's help

Disagreement between farmers and the government appears to be widening, as Kashmiri fruit growers continue to demonstrate in response to the valley's recent apple business dispute.

  • Fruit growers continue to protest across the valley over the alleged blocking of trucks carrying apples on their way to terminal markets across the country at several locations along the national highway
  • Around 35 Lakh people are directly or indirectly associated with the Apple industry
  • Apple sales are down by 30-40% as per Basheer Ahmad President of the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers and Dealers Association

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Kashmir's apple industry facing crisis during 'peak' season, seeks govt's help

Story by: Syed Shadab Ali Gillani

The recent disagreement between farmers and the government appears to be widening, as Kashmiri fruit growers continue to demonstrate in response to the valley's recent apple business dispute. Fruit growers continue to protest across the valley over the alleged blocking of trucks carrying apples on their way to terminal markets across the country at several locations along the national highway. The president of the buyer's organisation, Fruit Mandi Sopore Mudasir Ahmed, claimed that stopping trucks on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway causes a loss to producers, buyers, and dealers of about Rs 500 crore in just a month of September. According to Mudasir each truck that is stopped unnecessarily by the authorities causes a loss to the buyer of Rs 4-5 lac. It appears that they do this on purpose so that we suffer. President asked, Who is going to pay the losses?

“We will go on a hunger strike, and the government will be held accountable for it if the situation doesn't improve and the trucks aren't allowed to pass,” said Mudasir.

Political parties have also criticised the administration for the predicament of the fruit growers and asked it to make the required arrangements to enable the smooth transportation of trucks loaded with fruit from Kashmir to Delhi and other markets throughout the nation.

In a recent article by the former Chief Minister and President People’s Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti, who warned of a protest in her tweet “I warn the administration if they don't immediately open the roads for trucks, I along with our workers will sit on a protest.” Said Mufti.

Also Read: Pak terrorist with JeM links gunned down by security forces in Kashmir's Kulgam district

Around 35 Lakh people are directly or indirectly associated with this industry which accounts for around 8% of the region’s GDP and is considered the backbone of the local economy.

“Many festivals are coming up all across the country, such as Diwali or Dussera, which will undoubtedly increase sales, but our product must arrive there on time and it's crucial for everyone involved in this trade or we will suffer a great loss,” Said Basheer Ahmad President of the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers and Dealers Association.

Dismissing the fruit growers' allegations, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir P K Pole said the trucks were being halted due to natural causes, which were beyond anyone's control.

"The claim made by certain fruit growers association on the halting of fruit trucks is half-truth and natural reasons are hindering traffic. We have difficulties in the movement of traffic on the highway due to rains and resultant shooting stones which is beyond human control," Pole said in a statement. During the last few years, a huge number of youths took to fruit entrepreneurship and Adnan Ali Khan is one such entrepreneur from Shopian but he also feels that the apple industry is not as profitable as it used to be before and says, “If the current trend continues, the new generation may be forced to switch to some other industry.”

Adnan, who has been a recipient of many accolades for his innovative practices adds, “This year we are facing a huge loss. The box which we used to sell for Rs 1100-1200 last year, is being sold for Rs 600-700 this year and we may not have a suitable profit.” Although this year saw a high production with better quality products, the apple industry is suffering on account of various logistical and market issues.

“The production of apples this year is in full bloom but as production increases the production costs also increase and now our market is facing a huge price drop,” notes Basheer, who also says that the ‘sales are down by 30-40%.

He further believes that many other factors need to be addressed to help this premier industry from a ‘downfall’. According to the apple farmers, this year multiple factors affected the industry like ‘increased costs of pesticides and cardboard boxes used for storage and transport. Compared to last year, even the ‘labour charges’ have also increased which are affecting the growers directly. 

The string of inflation is even witnessed by allied industries. Abid Mir, a young entrepreneur manufacturing Cardboard boxes for packing says, “We used to buy raw materials for cardboard at 30 per kilogram last year, but this year we bought them for 40 Rupees or above.” Mir also records that the availability of cardboard in the market has been limited due to the high cost of raw materials which then affects the price of the finished product.

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