The frequent closure ofthe Srinagar-Jammu highway is taking a heavy toll on fruit growers and tradersin southern Shopian and Pulwama districts.
"One of my fruit trucksreached Delhi almost three weeks late and around 50 percent of the fruit hadturned rotten," said Abdur Rashid, a fruit grower from Shopian.
Mushtaq Ahmad Malik,president, fruit growers and zamindar association said around 25 to 30 percentof the total fruit is "still lying in various cold stores in Kashmir".
Many growers and tradersdid not export their fruit from November to January owing to exorbitant farescharged by transporters, he said.
"For a box of apple to betransported to Delhi, they (transporters) charged Rs 100 to 120 during thesemonths, as against ideal rates of Rs 60 to Rs 70 per-box," he said.
Malik said thatorchardists suffered huge losses despite having a bumper crop this year. "It isboth due to vagaries of weather and government's indifference towards the fruitindustry," Malik added.
Arif Muhammad Mir, whoruns a CA store at Lassipora, Pulwama, said around three lakh apple crates werepresently stored in his facility.
"And more than 40 lakhcrates are stored across 20 cold stores in the area," he said. Mir said thefrequent closure of the Srinagar-Jammu highway, low market rates in variousmandis in India and high transport fares are among reasons why traders andgrowers preferred to store their produce. If the highway continues to remainshut for more days, the growers would suffer further losses, he said.
"In next few weeks, theweather outside J&K would change. It would be hotter there and consequentlyit will reduce the shelf life of fruit. It will be then more difficult to ferrythe fruit to different mandis," he said.
The orchardists werealready grappling with heavy losses due unseasonal snowfall in November lastyear.
In Shopian district alone, the snowfall caused damage to around 40 to 45 percent fruit while in Pulwama, this figure was around 20 to 25 percent.