ROAD repairs along the Jammu-Srinagar highway have halted thousands of trucks carrying apple produce to the markets in other parts of the country. This has triggered protests by apple farmers who fear the further delay will rot the produce. This, in turn, would not only cause massive losses to the farmers but also inflict a crushing blow to the Valley’s economy as a whole. According to an estimate, there are 8000 trucks stranded on the highway carrying apples worth Rs 8000 crore. Incidentally, this year has witnessed a bumper crop of apples, more than 2.1 million metric tonnes, according to a statement by the divisional commissioner Pandurang K Pole. But the delay in reaching markets in New Delhi and the other parts can turn it all to dust.
This has, as a result, generated deep worry among the farmers. The people in the Valley at large have also become concerned about the already beleaguered sector. The Kashmir Valley produces two-thirds of the country’s apples and earns around Rs 10,000 crore from the industry. This makes the sector a backbone of Kashmir’s economy. Already, the growing costs of pesticides and transportation have 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 lakh people) in the state are practicing horticulture. Apple occupies around 40 percent of the total area under fruit and accounts for 90 percent of the total production of fruits in the state. The existing state of affairs is thus grim news for the region.
It is incumbent on the government to intervene and ensure that the trucks are given a smooth passage. In fact, the government needs to do more to ensure that the apples get a fair price as lakhs of families depend on the trade for their livelihood. In past, 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 apple. So, they prefer selling outside to earn higher profit. And to that end, a hassle-free transportation is critical and government needs to step in to ensure it and everything is done to save the apple trade. The governments needs not only to ensure a safe environment and safe passage for the trade but also an effort not to politicize the sector.
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