Export of Kashmir apples hit by highway hassles

With transport services on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway still affected in the wake pandemic, the fruit growers in Kashmir are forced to sell their produce at cheap rates.

“Every day 300 trucks would arrive and load the fruit and next morning moved to their respective destinations. But now, as the goods laden vehicles are allowed to ply on the highway only two or three days a week, the mandis are overburdened,” said Shahid Ali, president of the Aglar, Shopian fruit mandi transportation association.   

He said, with packaged fruit unable to reach the market in time, the rates go down.

The situation in other fruit mandis of the valley— Sopore, Baramula, Kulgam, Pulwama, and Anantnag, is no different.

The fruit growers say after the lockdown, the hassles they are confronting in transportation are hitting them badly. “Ever since the lockdown the demand has fallen leading to steep decline in the prices. Now, since our produce is not able to reach the outside market in time, it fetches us just peanuts,” said Ajaz Ahmad, a fruit grower from Shopian.

Ahmad who has an apple orchard spread over 10 kanals of land said that the production was already on the lower side this year. “Each year I would send at least 1000 apple boxes outside, but this year I have not been able to sell even 400 boxes,” he said.

The distressed growers and transporters have urged the government to intervene and save their fruit from getting rotten in mandis.

KK Sharma, Advisor to the Governor, who visited Shopian today assured the transporters of addressing their genuine grievances. “I will surely take up this issue with the concerned to ensure hassle free movement of fruit,” Sharma said.

The transporters also rued the lack of facilities at the mandi.

“The truck drivers are spending nights in the open in these cold conditions.  You can see they have erected tarpaulin tents as there is no accommodation available here for the transporters,” said Ali.