Sopur, Dec 9: The fruit growers in this apple town of Valley have a grouse against Delhi based traders and state government holding them responsible for sudden price fall of the fruit.
A group of growers told this reporter that the Delhi-based traders were exploiting them for decades with state government watching it as mute spectator. "Nearly 80 percent of the apple produce from the Valley goes to Azadpur Mandi. The traders there have gained strong monopoly over this trade for last forty years," they said.
They said under a well-knitted conspiracy the traders were promoting the fruit (apple) of Himachal Pradesh despite it being low graded. "The apple of HP fetches good returns while the price of apple from Kashmir has been reduced," they said adding that this had been done because the state lacked a comprehensive marketing policy.
Vice President, Kashmir Apple Growers' Association, Muhammad Yousuf Dar said, "The government has failed to devise a marketing policy. It is responsible for the destruction of this trade. We are facing losses worth crores of rupees daily. Our families would starve, if this trend continues," he said.
He said due to heavy losses the growers might have committed suicide but for Islam prohibiting the same.
From last one and a half months, the price of Kashmiri apple is declining constantly resulting in losses to growers. A full case Delicious (apple) which used to fetch nearly Rs 350-400 in the mandis outside the state is now sold at Rs 200-260. American (apple) half case has also witnessed fall in the rate. Earlier it used to be sold at Rs. 200–250, but now it is being sold at just Rs 80-90. Mahraji apple has also been hit.
Nearly 500 truck-loads of apple are presently sold at Azadpur, Delhi Mandi every day. According to rough estimates fruit growers are facing a whopping Rs 4 crore to Rs 5 crore daily losses. The total losses for the last one and a half month amount to over Rs 200 crore.
Monopoly of Delhi-based traders
Delhi-based traders have been enjoying monopoly over the apple fruit for decades. Having no other option to sell their fruit to others, the growers have completely been made dependent on Delhi-based traders.
" They decide rates of our apple," a grower said adding that they were exploiting the growers/Valley fruit traders in many ways. "Apart from taking high commissions the Delhi-traders have made us completely dependent on them," he said.
Indifferent state government
The growers have been left in lurch by state government as it has failed to keep carriage and price of wooden boxes in control. "The boxes which were sold at 25 earlier, are sold at Rs 60 now. The hike in the carriage has further hit this industry," the growers said.
"Sate government is helping Delhi dealers by not providing us other markets or alternatives to sell our fruit," the growers said.
President United Fruit Growers' Association (UFGA ), Irfan Hafeez Lone told Greater Kashmir that if the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road was opened for trade the monopoly of Delhi based traders would come to an end.
" Not only the apple would get better returns as it will reach markets in gulf countries from this road, but would also give us a relief by brining the carriage costs down," he said.
He said that government should take immediate steps to throw this route open for apple trade.
Experts hold the bulk quantity of production responsible for fall in the price. "Due to high production the demand of the apple has gone low," they said.
They said Kashmiris growers had no bargaining power due to shortage of cold storages here.