Fruit growers in Kashmir have been forced to rush their produce to various markets across the country after the closure of local markets and cold storage facilities owing to the ongoing unrest. According to officials of the Department of Horticulture (Planning and Marketing), the closure of local mandis and cold storage facilities, coupled with non-availability of labour, have forced the fruit growers to harvest and rush their roduce in bulk to markets outside the state.
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As per the data of the Horticulture Department, there has been a three-fold rise in fruit consignments to various markets outside the state this month.
Around 14,000 truckloads carrying 1,56,185 metric tonnes of fresh and dry fruit have been moved out from Kashmir valley between September 1 and September 23, 2016, against 5,645 truckloads carrying 50,140 metric tonnes of fruit during the corresponding period of last year, the data revealed.
With around 50,000 metric tonnes of fruit dispatched to various mandis from Kashmir between April 1, 2016 and August 31, 2016, the cumulative exports of fruit till September 23 this year have touched around 2,05,000 metric tonnes.
There is almost three-fold increase in fruit exports this September as compared to last year as almost all the major local mandis of Srinagar, Sopore, Baramulla, Shopian, Pulwama, Kulgam and Chrar-e-Sharief are closed because of the prevailing situation in Kashmir, an official of the Horticulture Department said adding the cold storage facilities in Kashmir, mostly located in Pulwama and Shopian, have been closed because of the unrest.
Normally, the fruit growers used to dump their produce in the cold storage facilities locally and dispatch the same to the markets outside the state in a regulated manner as and when they expected to get good returns, the official said.
He said that a major chunk of fruits also used to be marketed locally through vendors and other outlets.
Because of the easy connectivity through Mughal Road, the twin districts of Poonch and Rajouri had also come up as lucrative markets for Kashmiri fruit, the official said.
According to the official, as all the local marketing channels for the fruit have almost dried up because of the unrest, the growers are forced to rush their produce to the outside markets instead of allowing the same to rot in the orchards.
The Narwal Fruit Mandi in Jammu is also seeing increased fruit arrivals from Kashmir this year.
He said the local fruit mandis used to be abuzz with not only the local traders, but with wholesalers and exporters from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore.
But these mandis wear a deserted look these days owing to the unrest, he said adding that last year, Kashmir fruit worth Rs 200 crore was exported to various countries including Bangladesh and Nepal.
Pertinently, the horticulture sector contributes around Rs 5,000 crore to the State’s economy annually and despite massive increase in exports, the fruit growers and traders complain that the losses in the sector due to the unrest could be to the tune of around Rs 1,000 crore, the official said.