Season Of Distress
by Mareaya Fayaz
Apple Growers Are Crestfallen Due To The Low Price Of Fruit The Entire Season, Demand Market Intervention Scheme
The harvesting of apple is in its final stage. However, there is no respite to the fruit growers because of the way the rates crashed in the beginning of the season. Hundreds of truckloads are dispatched from local mandis of Kashmir valley on daily basis. The stagnation in market has disappointed the apple growers across the length and breadth of Kashmir. On an average, 200-250 truck loads are dispatched from Sopore mandi alone. Same is the case with other smaller mandis in north and south Kashmir.
The debt ridden farmers are aghast over the abrupt and certain crash of market during the ongoing season. The farmers and dealers alike ask many questions over the downfall of the market value of Kashmiri apple. Many cast aspersions over the blockade of Srinagar Jammu national highway twice during this season.
Fresh Fruit Stranded On Highway For Days Together
It needs to be mentioned here that the Srinagar-Jammu national highway remained closed for vehicular movement for 15 and eight days respectively in the months of September and October. Around 12,000 trucks were stranded on the highway during the first blockade of 15 days.
The trucks were carrying Kashmir apple to mandis all over the country. The second time, around 8,000 fruit laden trucks remained stranded on Srinagar Jammu national highway the second time when the highway was blocked for eight days. Fruit growers allege that the market crashed when the bulk of fruit reached the mandis across the nation after the movement was allowed on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. They complain that handling this sudden bulk was beyond the intake capacity of the fruit mandis.
It has to be admitted that fresh fruit has very short shelf life. What will the growers gain if the fruit reaches the market after it has lost its freshness? The aggrieved fruit growers smell foul in the blockade of the national highway. According to them, the blockade was avoidable.
Price Crash Is Deliberate, Allege Some Growers
Some of the aggrieved fruit growers who had come to sell their fruit in the Sopore fruit mandi got emotional alleging that the crash in the market was deliberate. “If the crash in the market is because of the economic downslide, then why are oranges and other fruits selling at twice the market price as compared to last year,” an aggrieved fruit grower told Kashmir Central. He was seen arguing with the exporters over low rates of high quality apples. The fruit grower said that he had come all the way from Tral in south Kashmir to sell his produce in Sopore mandi. He was looking for a good price for the high quality apples, but was deeply disappointed when the exporters did not offer a promising price.
The apple growers of Kashmir say they are surprised by these current developments. They say that the market has never remained so stagnant. “It has never happened in the past that the market remains down for so long. The pattern earlier was that even if the market went down for some time, it would bounce back,” said a fruit grower in his 50s.
But in the current season, fruit growers say that they are witnessing a strange phenomenon. “We have observed that the market has refused to go up even though the major part of the apple produce as already been sold out,” Mr Zahoor Ahmad, General Secretary Fruit Dealers Association Sopore Mandi told Kashmir Central. “It is really beyond our comprehension why there is so much of downslide. It is also surprising that the market has remained stagnant that these low rates. As far the quality is concerned, we have far better quality as compared to last year. The colour is magnificent, freshness is intact and taste is delicious. But the market has not shown any sign of improvement this year,” Ahmad noted sadly.
Unprecedented Crisis For Apple Industry
In the absence of a price support system and devoid of incentives, the apple industry in Kashmir is facing an unprecedented crisis. The fruit growers say that they do not receive any kind of support from the government, hence the situation has become far worse this year. A few years ago, the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) was launched to lift Grade 3 apples from the orchards itself on a specified price.
The fruit growers say that the scheme had provided some support to the poor farmers to deal with the market issues. Regrettably, this scheme is no more in vogue. This has led to a disastrous cascading impact on the farmers. Since the market value of quality fruits and all other kinds of fruit is down, farmers are facing difficulty because of the Grade 3 apples. On the other hand, the prices of pesticides, fertilizers and farming tools are sky rocketing. The farmers are not in a position to pay off the debts.
Double Blow For Apple Growers
Please take this caption in bold with the photograph of Fayaz Ahmad Malik in good size
President of Fruit Dealers Association Sopore Mandi Fayaz Ahmad Malik Says Highly Poor Quality Of Fertilizers, Pesticides Hits Farmers Hard, Govt Departments Complacent Regarding Gravity Of Problem President of Fruit Dealers Association Sopore Mandi, Fayaz Ahmad Malik told Kashmir Central that the life of a fruit grower has been made miserable. “On one hand the market has receded vertically. On the other hand the prices of fertilizers, pesticides and farming tools have increased manifold,” Fayaz Malik said. “It is not just that the prices of fertilizers and pesticides have increased. Sadly, the quality of these products has been compromised to unimaginable levels,” he highlighted.
Malik expressed deep concern that substandard pesticides and fertilizers are being pumped into Jammu and Kashmir in connivance with the local dealers and distributors. Malik stated that even the maximum retail price label is being recommended to the manufacturers of substandard pesticides and fertilizers by the local dealers and distributors to get more and more money from the pockets of poor farmers.
Malik alleged that replicas of recognized brands are specially designed for the pesticides and fertilizers dealers of Jammu and Kashmir. He stated that the same is made available to the farmers on exorbitant rates. “The farmers are suffering because there is no quality control mechanism. The enforcement wing of the Agriculture Department or the Horticulture Department is complacent. The Horticulture Department and the Horticultural Produce Marketing and Processing Corporation Ltd (JKHPMC) have miserably failed in their duties and responsibilities,” alleged Malik.
‘HP Govt Has Better Support Policies For Apple Growers’
Malik stated that farmers and fruit growers in Kashmir have been left at the mercy of God. As against Kashmir valley, the Himachal Pradesh government is providing every kind of support to the fruit growers, Malik informed. “The HP government introduced crop insurance scheme long time back. The scheme provides financial assistance to the fruit growers in case of damage to the crop by natural calamity. The HP government has a transparent and efficient quality control mechanism in place. Because of this, substandard pesticides and fertilizers cannot be sold in the markets of Himachal Pradesh. The government also provides pesticides, fertilizers and transport facility to its farmers on subsidized rates,” the President of Fruit Dealers Association Sopore said.
‘Govt Must Support Fruit Growers’
Farmers point out that on the other hand, GST has been enhanced from 12% to 18%. Malik made a passionate appeal to the LG administration to come to the rescue of the farming community. He said that the least J&K Administration can do is to stop the influx of substandard and poor quality pesticides and fertilizer to Jammu and Kashmir. He demanded that the government must put in place an efficient quality control mechanism to punish the dealers and distributors who are supplying poor quality pesticides and fertilizers. Malik called upon the government to re-invoke the market intervention scheme.
Malik highlighted that the apple industry is going through difficult times. He said that it is incumbent upon the government to save the farmers from devastation. Malik also demanded that the LG administration should provide some kind of support to the fruit growers to overcome the challenges they face.
Juice Plant In Mazbugh Rafiabad Must Be Made Functional
President of Fruit Dealers Association Sopore Mandi, Fayaz Ahmad Malik informed that under the given circumstances when the market of Kashmiri apple has receded, it is imperative upon JKHPMC to make its lone Juice Plant situated at Mazbugh Rafiabad functional. Farmers are correct in pointing out that the juice plant could have crushed at least 10 to 20 lakh metric tons of Grade 3 apple. The move would have saved farmers from additional loses.
Farmers say that it is a matter of worry and concern that the juice plant has remained non-functional throughout the season. The only juice factory which takes Grade 3 apple from the fruit growers is that of Mr Altaf Bukhari. This factory has the intake capacity of a few lakh metric tons.
“The factory can absorb only some percentage of the Grade 3 produce. The rest comes to the fruit mandis for sale where it is left struggling for a good price. Even quality apples are selling for peanuts. What can poor farmers expect for his Grade 3 produce?” Malik questioned.