Cherry business hit, growers in distress

With low demand and deficient transport facilities crippling their business, the cherry growers in Kashmir have appealed to the administration for minimum support price.

The cherry which has a very small shelf life would find readily available buyers in the outside markets, but this season the covid19 pandemic has played spoilsport with growers complaining low demand as well as poor transport facilities amid countrywide lockdown.

The Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Union has shot an SOS to Lieutenant Governor seeking help from the administration to ferry the cherry crop to outside state.

According to estimates, Kashmir produces annually 13000-15000 metric tons of cherry getting a turnover of Rs 150-200 crore.

Chairman KVFGDU Basheer Ahmad Basheer said that they have knocked at the doors of the administration to get some succour for the growers who are facing huge losses. “As per past practice, we used to transport cherry via air cargo and trains to Mumbai fruit mandi. Since Mumbai is extremely hit by covid-19, the fruit mandi there is completely non-functional,” he said, adding that the problem was compounded by the closure of the canning factories in Kashmir amid coronavirus lockdown.

“Double cherry variety was procured by canning factories. We recently held a meeting with canning factory owners’ association and requested them to buy our double cherry crop, but they were reluctant in view of the prevailing conditions,” he said.

He said that lack of the transport— air and railway— has equally affected the sector.  “Despite our persuasion, the administration failed to provide transport facilities— air and railway—to the poor cherry growers,” he said.

Meanwhile, the union has urged the administration to provide minimum support price of Rs 100 per kilogram for cherry to protect the growers. “If our proposal finds favour with the government, the poor cherry growers, who have constantly suffered heavy losses for past some time, could heave a sigh of relief, as otherwise we are afraid that about 10 lakh families in Kashmir will be hit by the losses to the cherry,” Basheer said.

A senior horticulture department official said that they have apprized the administration of the problems being faced by the growers. “We are working hard to help the growers in this hour of distress. However, there is less demand outside J&K.”

Meanwhile, fruit growers have appealed to the general public to buy locally produced fruits to safeguard the interests of horticulture sector.