Killings of four non-local persons associated with apple trade has hit the apple industry hard. According to reports, the killings have forced a significant number of the apple traders and the truckers to leave the Valley. This has threatened to bring the apple trade to a stop during the harvest season. The farmers need truckers from outside to send their produce to different markets in the rest of India. At the same time, they sell apples to outside traders. The killings have thus left the trade reeling. And if not stopped quickly, there is little hope for the state’s apple industry. Already, because of the abnormal situation over the past three months, the apple farmers have found it difficult to pick, pack and transport apples. The less number of truckers from outside in the Valley has meant disproportionate increase in the transportation rates. Similarly less number of buyers from outside has meant reduction in the price of apples. The killings are certain to wreak further havoc with the trade.
Hence the need for the people to become concerned about the already beleaguered sector. The Kashmir Valley produces two-third of the country’s apples and they earn around Rs 10,000 crore for the state. This makes the sector a backbone of Kashmir’s economy. Already the growing costs of pesticides and transportation has reduced considerably the returns from exports. And if the sector suffers major losses because of the ongoing turmoil, it would not only affect the apple farmers but also the economy as a whole. Currently five lakh families (around 25 lac people) in the state are practicing horticulture. Apple occupies around 40 percent of total area under fruit and accounts for 90 percent of the total production of fruits in the state. The current state of affairs of the apple industry is thus a grim news for the state.
The government’s efforts to salvage the apple season through Market Intervention Scheme haven’t succeeded. National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) was accused by the apple farmers of paying less money per kilogram of the apple. So, they preferred selling outside to earn higher profit. But the killings have now made it challenging to send the produce outside the state. This has created an unprecedented situation for the sector. Inability to sell outside will force the apple traders to sell at lower rates to NAFED causing huge losses to the sector. This is why it is imperative that everything is done to save the apple trade. And it wouldn’t need only the steps to ensure a safe environment for the trade but also an effort not to politicize the sector.