Shopian: In the absence of adequate post-harvest management facilities, apple cultivators are forced to sell their produce at dirt-cheap prices.
The lack of sufficient number of Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storage units across the apple-rich districts of Kashmir spurs the growers to sell their produce soon after it is harvested.
During the peak-harvesting season, hundreds of apple-laden trucks leave for outstation mandis on a daily basis, causing a significant drop in the prices.
“Most of the apple growers and traders do not wait for the prices to improve as they have no means to enhance the shelf-life of their produce,” said a group of apple growers from south Kashmir’s Shopian district.
They said that there were not enough cold storage units in each district and “these are the marginal growers who are at the receiving end”. Jammu and Kashmir is the largest apple producer in India. The region produces around 20 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of apples annually and of it around 40 percent of the fruit is first-rate or Grade-A.
There are around 30-35 CA storage units in Kashmir with a storing capacity of around 2.5 lakh metric tonnes.
“The storing capacity is inadequate. Every grower is not finding a place in these facilities,” said Suhail Ahmad, an orchardist.
He said that the growers have to scramble, even months before they begin the harvesting process, to find a space in the CA storage units.
J&K Fruit and Vegetables Processing and Integrated Cold Chain Association (JKPICCA) spokesperson Izhan Javed said that most of the CA storages are located in Industrial Growth Centre (IGC), Lassipora, Pulwama.
“The farmers from other districts bring their produce to these CA storages, placing extra strain on them,” he said.
Javed said that more CA stores were in the pipeline that would resolve the issue to a large extent.
Fruit Mandi Shopian President, Peer Muhammad Amin said that the CA storage capacity should be enhanced by at least 60 percent.
He said that the marginal growers were least benefited with the existing CA stores.
Amin said that the existing facilities allowed only those farmers to store their produce who could store it for at least 3 to 4 months.
“The owners of these facilities charge the growers arbitrarily and as per their own preferences,” he said.
Amin said that the government should form a regulatory committee that could fix the storage charges.
A senior official from the Department of Horticulture told Greater Kashmir that the government had not yet formed any such authority that could regulate the prices of the CA stores.
The Department of Horticulture provides the entrepreneurs with a 50 percent subsidy for establishing such stores.