Days after apple growers from Kashmir met Home Minister Amit Shah and expressed fears of massive losses this season due to restrictions on movement, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has decided to oversee a centralised procurement of apples from the Valley.
Sources in the Home Ministry said the government has decided to procure about 12 metric tonnes of apples directly from local mandis in Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla. At a meeting with Shah last week, apple growers from J&K, along with panchayat members, had apprised him of the difficulties they were facing in taking their produce to markets because of the restrictions imposed since the scrapping of the state’s special status under Article 370.
While the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) will be the central agency in charge of procurement, payment will be transferred directly to the apple growers’ bank accounts through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) route, sources said.
Driving the economy
With production worth Rs 8,000 crore, apple forms a crucial part of Jammu and Kashmir’s economy. With a bumper crop, ensuring its marketing and a fair price has become a priority for the government.
“NAFED will complete the entire process of procurement through designated state government agencies by December 15. Procurement will be done directly from genuine apple growers,” said an MHA official.
The government will constitute a state-level price fixation committee for fixing the procurement price based on the variety and grade of apple, as well as other incidental charges like packaging, transportation and storage. The committee will include a member of the National Horticulture Board, MHA sources said.
A quality committee will also be set up to ensure proper grading of different varieties of apples.
“The implementation and coordination committee at the state level will be chaired by the chief secretary. The Agriculture Ministry, Home Ministry and other central agencies will oversee the implementation of the scheme,” said a Home Ministry official.
Sources said the J&K chief secretary has directed all deputy commissioners in the state to launch a sustained campaign to generate awareness among fruit growers about the Centre’s special market intervention scheme.
He has also directed them to start the process of their registration, giving their Aadhaar and bank account details, so that payment can be made directly into their bank accounts within a period of 48 hours.