Unregulated traffic along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway has resulted in huge losses for apple farmers in the valley, said a complaint by the Apple Farmers’ Federation of India (AFFI) to Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha. About 5,000 trucks with apples to various markets in the country are stuck in the highway and farmers fear that it could add not just to their losses, but would impact small and medium traders too.
Talking to The Hindu, AFFI leader from Jammu and Kashmir Abdul Rashid said each of the 5,000 trucks carries about 1,200 boxes of 20 kg of apple; that is, each truck has about 20 tonnes of apple. . Though the administration has told the farmers that the traffic restrictions are because of highway construction work and transferred a senior police officer after complaint, they are not regulating the traffic, Rashid said and added, “If all trucks reach at the same time in a market, the price of apple will fall. Now, apple is perishing in markets in Kashmir, in trucks and at orchards,” he added.
The AFFI said the Sopore apple market has recorded a loss of about ₹ 500 crore over the last few days. “As a result, farmers are losing at least ₹ 300 to ₹ 400 on a box of apple. Transporters are also facing the crisis. Four lakh families in the State are dependent on apple trade. Trucks are not able to reach the valley’s markets because of the traffic. We met Mr. Sinha. He said he will take steps, but traffic has not been regulated yet,” he said.
The AFFI, in a statement, demanded the Centre to ensure that the farmers get at least ₹ 60 for a kg of apple. It said the Kashmir administration has been facilitating the designs of large agri-business corporate houses to create an artificial shortage in fruit markets across the country, soar prices in consumer market, and reap windfall profit while depressing the procurement price during the harvesting season, and thus looting the apple growers.
The AFFI said the highway blockage is also connected with the high costs of utilising controlled atmosphere (CA) storage, whereby small growers are unable to store their produce and sell it when circumstances are favourable. “We see a deliberate act by the administration to benefit CA companies which rent out their spaces to agribusinesses who can easily bear the high costs associated with cold storage. In this way, apple growers are being pushed away from marketing their own produce,” it added.