Asia’s 2nd largest fruit mandi at Sopore in shambles

Annoyed fruit growers call for govt attention

Publish Date: Aug 30 2014 12:00PM

Sopore, Aug 29: Asia’s second largest fruit mandi situated in north Kashmir’s Sopore area is craving for official attention with traders continuously facing number of problems.
According to traders as much as Rs 2,500 crore fruit business is being carried out in the mandi every year. “However, the lack of infrastructure is hobbling the growth of business as it prevents the foreign buyers to come to the mandi,” they said.
Established in 1988 on 372 kanals on the outskirts here, considered to be the biggest fruit market in Jammu Kashmir, the mandi has recorded Rs 2500 crore business last year but the fruit growers and dealers alleged that the state government has failed to pay any attention towards upgrading its infrastructure.
Not to talk of any modern trading facilities, the market giving sustenance to more than two million people in Kashmir (directly and indirectly) by generating revenue of thousands of crores of rupees annually, even lacks some of the basic facilities.
President Sopore Fruit Growers Association Fayaz Ahmad told Greater Kashmir that the mandi has been neglected by the state government over the years.
 “We are not begging for anything but demanding something which is our right. Despite horticulture being the backbone of the state economy, government has totally neglected this sector which is reflected by the state of this mandi,” Ahmad said.

“There is dearth of auction platforms in the market. Present platforms can accommodate only a few growers to auction their fruit while as there are thousands of traders here. There is minimum requirement of further 40 auction platforms,” Ahmad said.

“There is no accommodation facility for the traders and the drivers coming from outside to this mandi. We have been demanding adequate accommodation facilities for them as they are our guests and prospective buyers,” Ahmad said.
“When it comes to facilities and infrastructure, we are far behind any other fruit mandi in the country. The state government has never bothered about the upliftment of this vital sector which can help generate employment in the state,” he said.

The fruit growers complained about lack of water supply facility in the mandi. “The mandi has no separate water supply scheme despite the fact that every day 20,000 to 30,000 people visit here when it is peak season,” they said.
“Instead of providing the mandi with a separate scheme, water is being supplied through plastic tanks. We have approached authorities a number of times to provide separate water supply scheme, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears,” the growers said.

“After two decades the road was repaired but today you will see that the potholes are visible on entire stretch from Sopore College to the market,” Bashir Ahmed, a grower, said.
“If government would have been really sincere in boosting horticulture sector, they should have constructed a four-lane road leading to this mandi,” he said.
“Thousands of buyers and transporters from outside the state come here to purchase and ferry apple in trucks. But the poor condition of the road gives wrong impression to them about the market,” a fruit grower said.

While this mandi is known throughout Asia, it does not have any even a single cold storage facility. “The lack of cold storage facility forces the traders to sell their produce at cheaper rates,” they growers said.
“We have no alternative than to sell our fruit whatever returns we get, as we don’t have storage facility here,” Muhammad Yaqoob, a grower, said.

An official of Horticulture Department posted at Sopore Fruit Mandi who wished not to be named said the government has not sanctioned any funds for the infrastructure upgradation here. “This is the reason the mandi has seen no development,” he said.
“We have number of times written to the authorities to lay the pipes for water supply to the mandi, but nothing has been done,” he acknowledged, adding that the infrastructural upgradation needs intervention from the top level, which is not forthcoming.

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