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COVID-19 casts a shadow on 11,000 metric tonne cherry crop in Kashmir

Cherry growers pack cherries in boxes before sending them to the larger markets on the outskirts of Srinagar.

Cherry growers pack cherries in boxes before sending them to the larger markets on the outskirts of Srinagar.   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

Allow fast transportation to outside mandis in view of short shelf life of fruit, say orchardists.

Kashmir’s first crop of cherry fruit, expected to cross the 11,000-metric tonne mark this year, is staring at uncertain times due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the nationwide lockdown.

“Double Glass, a variety of cherry, will hit the markets next month. Due to the nationwide lockdown, all mandis are closed. The fruit growers have already suffered huge losses due to last year’s clampdown and subsequent lockdown,” Jammu Kashmir Kisan Tehreek (JKKT) general secretary Ghulam Nabi Malik.

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The market chain of cherry has already seen a disruption due to the curfew imposed in the wake of the Centre’s move to revoke J&K’s special status. “We used to sell the crop even while the cherry was on trees. However, this year, due to uncertain situation and Internet blockade, prospective buyers did not prefer pre-plucking payment,” Maznoor Ahmad, an orchadist from the Ganderbal district, said.

Mr. Malik said the situation was further compounded after the local processing units had been closed down due to the COVID-19 outbreak. “The local processing units should be allowed to resume functioning,” he said.

The official figures suggest that the yield, 11,789 MT in 2018 and 11,000 MT in 2019, would see a significant jump due to the introduction of high density variety of trees in recent years.

The shelf life of the cherry is short and around 50% is transported outside every year. According to official figures, around 400 MT was transported by road though refrigerated vans last year. Besides, 400 MT more was ferried in trains and 900 MT by air, the officials said.

With the COVID-19 bringing trains and air services to a grinding halt, Mr. Malik urged the administration to allow smooth and transportation to outside mandis.

“The government should continue its market intervention scheme and keep its purchasing centres open so that the produce is purchased and sold at proper rates,” Mr. Malik said.

Director, Industries and Commerce Kashmir, Mehmood Ahmad Shah, said, “Both cold stores and cardboard packaging units cater to the cherry crop. This year more emphasis will be on canning of the produce to increase its shelf life."

The orchardists, who have tended over 2,713 hectares, have demanded that all the cart vendors in the Valley be allowed to sell cherry in the open markets locally.

Produced on the outskirts of Srinagar’s Harwan-Zakura belt, Ganderbal, Tangmarg and Shopian districts, the harvest season will start in the last week of May and end by the first week of July.

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 9:21:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/covid-19-casts-a-shadow-on-11000-metric-tonne-cherry-crop-in-kashmir/article31584632.ece

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