Srinagar: With apple crops ready for the harvest, apple growers of Kashmir were a worried lot after Article 370 was revoked and a communication blockade was imposed in Kashmir. The shutdown in Kashmir has not helped either. The government came to the rescue of apple farmers last week by announcing a market intervention scheme to directly buy the apples from the farmers through a nodal agency at remunerative prices. The scheme that puts in place a minimum basic price for the apples is being welcomed by the farmers, but there is a glitch. Many have already sold off their apples to dealers in Kashmir and Delhi and taken advance payments for their produce even before the scheme was introduced.
The largest Apple Mandi of Asia in Sopore north Kashmir has shut after the revocation of article 370.
Kashmir accounts for 75 per cent of the apple production of the country. According to the scheme government will buy A grade apples for 52 rupees per Kg, B grade for 36 rupees and C grade apples for 16.75 rupees.
Ghulam Rasool is one of those apple growers who has welcomed the government scheme. He says with no means of communication it is virtually impossible for him to get in touch with the apple dealers in Delhi to sell his produce. Government Intervention scheme is the best option available for now.
“The government is offering good rates. I plan to sell all my produce which will be roughly 5000 apples boxes to the government only”, said Ghulam Rasool, apple grower.
But the apple dealers who made advance payments to the apple farmers are worried about getting back their money from the farmers.
“Apple growers have already sold off their produce and taken advance payments for that, how are they going to pay us back in case they sell their produce to the government”, said Ghulam Mohammad, an Apple dealer.
Around 1000 apple trucks move out of the Sopore Apple Mandi each day in the harvesting season, but with mandi closed these days that number has come down to just 40 trucks per day. Even those trucks taking the produce out of the mandi do not load the stuff in the mandi, but instead take their trucks to the orchards for loading.
“We are stuck here for the last six days, the closure of the mandi has hit our job in a big way” said Ashwani Kapoor, a truck driver
The government has not spelled out whether the scheme shall be limited to just this year alone or will continue in the future as well, but clearly in a situation of shut down and a communication blockade, it has really come as a big relief to the apple growers in Kashmir.