Srinagar: Kashmir’s apple industry is facing a major crisis these days as hundreds of fruit laden trucks are halted frequently along the Srinagar Jammu national highway and most apples end up rotten.
Angry growers on Monday shut all the major wholesale fruit markets in Kashmir including Asia’s second largest fruit mandi at Sopore due to the alleged halting of trucks especially from Qazigund to Banihal. These markets would remain shut on Tuesday.
Protests also broke out in some parts of the valley where growers alleged that trucks were being deliberately stopped for the last many days, resulting in a considerable loss for the vendors. Prices of the apple have sharply crashed with some growers resorting to distress sale to avoid decaying of the fruits.
“ After we exhausted all the options we are left with no option but to shut mandis,” said a fruit grower at Sopore. “The apples in the halted truck have started rotting now and this is terrible on part of the government that it is not allowing smooth ride of these trucks.”
Over 1500 fruit laden trucks are dispatched daily from Kashmir and the number is going to be more in the coming days.
Horticulture is the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy with seven lakh families directly and indirectly associated with the sector. The horticulture contributes seven percent to the Gross State Domestic Product of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir is the largest producer of apple in the country
The political parties have hit out at the J&K government for its failure to allow smooth flow of these trucks to other parts of the country.
Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti too alleged that the apple trucks were being deliberately halted.
“After deliberately holding up fruit laden trucks for days endlessly & causing massive losses, LG admin is now interfering with movement of tribals & their livestock. It seems that the administration is bent upon making every resident & community of J&K suffer miserably,” she tweeted.
Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference (JKPC) on Monday expressed grave concern over the halting of apple-loaded trucks on Jammu- Srinagar national highway, terming such a situation lethal for Kashmir’s economy in more ways than one.
National Conference General Secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar slammed government over it’s failure on implementation of smooth movement of fresh fruit trucks.
Meanwhile, Kashmir’s Divisional Commissioner said the administration was making all efforts to maintain the flow of trucks.
In a series of tweets, Kashmir’s Divisional Commissioner said all stranded Jammu bound trucks will be cleared by tonight, around 4000 truck are on way.
“Normally apple production in Kashmir is 17 metric ton but due to abundant rainfall, there has been a bumper crop and will cross 21 metric ton,” he said and appealed to the drivers of empty vehicles to use Mughal road.
Kashmir’s fruit season starts in May when the first crop of cherry is harvested. It is followed by pears and other fruits which hit the market in the following months. Apple is almost the last crop that hits the market in autumn. Bulk of the apples is exported to the markets in Delhi. Some of the crop is also sold in Bangalore, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and other cities.