Kashmiri apples brave all odds, supply doubles
Despite terrorists’ threat to apple growers and the partial lockdown after the abrogation of special status to Jammu & Kashmir under Article 370, the supply of apples and peaches from the Valley to other parts of the country has nearly doubled.
According to Jammu & Kashmir’s horticulture department, the total dispatch of fruits this year has been 1.60 lakh metric tonnes so far as against 89,000 metric tonnes during the corresponding period last year.
Top sources said the elaborate security bandobast kept terrorists at bay and helped the apple traders transport their produce. The shutdown hit normal life in Kashmir but the Modi Government ensured that the trade of fruits and vegetables was not affected at any cost, source said, adding the Government actually facilitated smooth transportation from the Valley.
With Government’s efforts, as many as 750 trucks carrying apples leave the Valley every day for trade in other parts of the country. This has helped reduction in apple prices as it is being sold between Rs 40 and Rs 80 a kg depending on the quality of the apple and localities where they are sold.
“The divisional and district administrations have been directed to coordinate with the producers for all facilitation in harvesting and smooth transportation in hassle free manner,” officials said, adding that the number of apple trucks is expected to increase in the coming days. According to officials, over 14,000 truck apples have been transported since the Centre’s Article 370 move exactly a month ago.
Jammu & Kashmir grows 19 lakh metric tonnes of apples each year which is 80 per cent of all apples produced in the country. Due to this, India is the world’s fifth-largest apple producing country.
The revenue department has been directed to increase transportation of apples so that the growers could get good remuneration of their product in this season.
Besides, NAFED has been directed to buy all grades of apple at higher price to provide a lifeline to apple growers in Kashmir.
Srinagar District Magistrate Shahid Choudhary in a tweet said, “Exciting news for apple growers. The NAFED is set to buy in all three grades at an impressive price. Every single fruit will bring in greater value, enhanced income at no transportation hassles.”
According to officials, after the decision on Article 370 terrorists threatened the owner of an apple orchard in Wattoo village in Shopian saying that he must not send the produce outside the State. At the time, the owner was loading a vehicle with apples from his orchard. “This is the first such incident in the Valley and the motive of terrorists was clear — to show a false image of Jammu & Kashmir to the world and falsely claim that there is no normalcy here,” officials added. Shopian, Sopore and Kulgam have registered record production of apples this year. These are militancy-prone areas.
The apple season starts in the second week of August and peaks in September-October. The flow of trucks declines only by December 15, according to officials. Truckers from Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan ferry apple outside the Valley.
The contribution of fruits and dry fruits in Jammu & Kashmir’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) is a sizeable 8 per cent while 67 per cent of the erstwhile State’s population earns its livelihood — directly or indirectly — through the production of apples. And an estimated seven lakh families or 33 lakh people are either directly or indirectly involved with work in orchards. According to third advance estimates of horticulture, the Agriculture Ministry projected that apple production is expected to top 2.5 million tonnes as against 2.33 million tonnes in 2017-18.
Sunday, 08 September 2019 | Rajesh Kumar | New Delhi
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