While the demand for different fruits in Kashmir increases many fold in the month of Ramadhan, however, it is the thirst quenching watermelon that is consumed most by the people for breaking the daily fast.
Despite the supplies getting hit by the closure of Srinagar-Jammu national highway intermittently, about 230 trucks of watermelons arrive Kashmir daily since the beginning of Ramadhan.
As per president Fruit Traders Association at Parimpora Fruit Mandi, Bashir Ahmad Basheer, 200 trucks laden with watermelons and melons from different states ranging from Punjab to Karnataka arrive at the mandi daily. In addition 20-30 trucks loaded with this fresh fruit arrive at the Iqbal Fruit Mandi, Batamaloo.
“Even though this year it is not as hot during Ramadhan as it used to be during last few years but consumption of melons and watermelons has not declined,” said Basheer.
As per Basheer each truckload of watermelons carries 9 tonnes of fruit which costs anywhere between Rs 4 lakhs to Rs 5 lakhs which makes the traders suffer huge losses every time a truck laden with melons is stuck on the national highway.
“Despite all odds we don’t have an option but to continue the trade even if we are not making any profits. These fruits are so much in demand that we cannot stop their trade. Recently lot of melons rotted due to being stuck on highway and we had to throw away a lot of them,” said Basheer.
He says exorbitant transportation cost has added to the miseries of the fruit traders who ensure that people don’t miss out on their favourite melons this Ramadhan.
“Bringing these perishables for consumption of people in Ramadhan has been a taxing task as we are even asked for bribes by traffic authorities for plying on the highway. We hope the Mughal Road gets the status of alternate national highway so that fresh fruit supply to the valley is smooth,” says Basheer.
He says apart from melons, Banana’s are also quite in demand during Ramadhan as people prefer to eat this high energy fruit at Iftar.
“We manage to get at least 40 trucks of bananas worth Rs 4 lakh to Rs 5 lakh each daily. People here are fond of bananas especially due to its taste and nutritional value,” says Basheer.
He says different varieties of grapes in almost 8 to 10 truckloads also arrives at the mandi daily costing almost Rs 5 lakhs per truck.
“Grapes are a very delicate item and if at all it gets stuck on the highway, the chances of receiving usable chunk of grapes is very less. Priced between Rs 70 to Rs 140 per kilogram, popularity of grapes has increased with each passing year,” says Basheer. Kiwis, Mango from UP and Maharashtra are also among popular fruits during Ramadhan. “Now a days we get at least half a dozen varieties of mango from both UP and Maharashtra. Some high end fruit shops are also making available Alphonso variety of mangoes which is a rare variety from Konkan area of Maharashtra,” says Basheer. Juicy papayas are also a hot buy this Ramadhan.