Mohammad Ashraf Wani along with few other fruit growers and traders from south Kashmir’s Shopian district have been camping in New Delhi since last week. The group is busy in meeting political leaders, government officials and Delhi based trade bodies to convince them into containing the “illegal import” of Iranian apples into India fruit markets.
The imported produce, which is sold cheap in Delhi’s Azadpur Fruit Mandi, according to the group, brings huge losses to the fruit growers of Kashmir.
“The Iranian apples imported via Afghanistan are sold at dirt cheap rates as the India allows duty free imports from Afghanistan”, said Wani, who is also the president of Fruit Mandi Shopian.
Ashraf said that thousands of apple growers whose harvest was lying in various cold storages would suffer huge losses due to the Iranian produce.
“Many growers stock up their harvest in cold storages in the month of October and November so that later on they could sell it at better prices”, he said.
According to Wani, as the Iranian apples were being sold at cheap rates in Indian markets, the rate of Kashmiri apple has tumbled.
“At least 50 to 60 apple laden trucks via Afghanistan enters on a daily basis in New Azadpur Mandi, Delhi and this increase in the supply also plummets the rates,” he said. Izhan Javeed, spokesperson J&K Fruit and Vegetables Processing and Integrated Cold Chain Association (JKPICCA) told Greater Kashmir that at least 2 lakh metric tonnes of apples were lying in 35 cold storages across the Valley.
Last year at least 30 lakh cartons of apple were lying in cold storages when there was nationwide lockdown to stave off the spread of COVID-19.
As the temperatures shot up, the produce, according to the growers, turned bad and was sold cheap in local markets.
Wani said that the group led by Majid Aslam Wafai met Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Geol and conveyed its concerns to him.
“We are meeting the officials and fruit bodies here requesting them to prevent the illegal import of Iranian produce in the name of Afghanistan”, said Wani.
Earlier, the group had met the custom officials in Amritsar and chairman of Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) in New Delhi.
Last week, as the Union budget proposed imposition of 35 percent Cess on the imported apples, the announcement was music to the ears of apple growers in the Valley. However, on February 5, the Finance Ministry issued an notification exempting the duty on many items imported into India from neighboring countries including the apples from Afghanistan.
“The happiness was short lived. Now we appeal the Prime Minister to intervene and save the apple growers of the Valley”, said Wani.