Shopian, Oct 29: Farooq Ahmad fidgeted with an apple for a few minutes before he tossed it out.
“All my hard work went down to drain”, said Ahmad.
Ahmad, an apple grower from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district had transported over a hundred apple cartons to Fruit Mandi Shopian, hoping to fetch him a good amount. However, they were sold at dirt-cheap prices.
Like Ahmad, the plummeting prices of apples across the wholesale markets in the country have left thousands of apple growers and traders distraught in apple-rich districts of south Kashmir.
An apple carton of Delicious variety weighing 17 to 18 Kgs is sold at Rs 400.
Muhammad Ashraf Wani, a well-heeled apple orchardist and former president of Fruit Mandi Shopian said that the growers would usually sell the same carton for Rs 900 to Rs 1100 depending on the quality and market prices.
Amidst jacked-up prices of packaging, fertilizers and pesticides, the farmers fear that they may not be able to recoup the production costs due to a significant drop in the prices of apples.
“The price of a wooden apple box has gone up to Rs 125. The GST has sent the pesticides and other packaging costs spiralling up by manifolds”, said Aabid Rashid, another apple grower.
The apple growers and traders believe that a bumper crop has sent the apple markets crushing across the country.
“This year the Valley witnessed a bumper crop that spurred an imbalance between supply and demand”, said Wani.
He said that every day around 3000 trucks leave for various outstation Mandis.
According to him, the total apple production this year is expected between 20 to 25 lakh MTs.
In 2020-2021, Kashmir recorded 20.35 lakh MTs of fruit production, of which apple production was about 80-90%.
In absence of market intervention schemes and enough cold storage, the farmers have to reap losses.
“The introduction of Minimum Support Price (MSP) and government-run cold storage could save the farmers and the apple industry”, said Wani.
Pertinently, the industry provides livelihood to more than 4 million people in Jammu and Kashmir.