Sopore (J&K), Sep 16 After the revocation of Article 370 apple growers in Kashmir were finding themselves in a lurch due to a communication blockade and shutdown, government came to the rescue by announcing a scheme to directly buy the fruit from the farmers through a nodal procurement agency.
While the apple growers are mostly happy with this move some sticking issues remain like most apple growers have already taken advance money from the apple dealers for selling their produce to them even before the scheme was launched.
In Sopore North Kashmir, the largest Apple Mandi of Asia has closed down, first time after militancy erupted in Kashmir 30 years ago.
Two days after the launch of Market Intervention Target Scheme for apple farmers in Kashmir just four apple growers had registered themselves in the Sopore Apple Mandi — out of 900 farmers associated with the mandi.
However, nobody has sold their produce so far.
Ghulam Mohi ud din Dar is one of those apple growers, who is happy with this government scheme and ready to sell his produce. He has registered himself in the Sopore Apple Mandi
“This is the best offer in the present conditions. Rates are good and will remain stable by this scheme, there will be transparency, our only worry is that we must receive money on time. I am planning to sell 4,000 boxes to the government,” said Ghulam Mohi ud din Dar.
The government will buy A grade apples for Rs 52 per Kg, B grade for 36 and C for Rs 16.75.
The apple merchants, who made advance payments to the apple farmers are unsure how will they fit into the new scheme of things and will they be paid back by the farmers if they sell their produce to the government.
“More than 90 per cent of the farmers have taken advance payments from dealers. People have already sold their produce for Rs 2,000 crore advance payment in Sopore. I have given advance payment of Rs 2 crore to farmers.
“The government should have announced the scheme in the beginning of the year rather than in the middle of the harvesting season,” said Ghulam Nabi, an Apple dealer.
Little away from the fruit mandi, Adil Hussain is busy plucking apples in his sprawling apple farms along the highway. He says he may consider to link himself with the government scheme next year because he has already sold this year”s produce on account of advance payment a couple of months back.
“I will send the apples directly to my dealer, there is no scope for me to register myself in this scheme this year,” said Adil Hussain.
On any given day in the harvesting season, around 1,000 apple trucks move out of the Sopore Apple Mandi but there is hardly any activity inside the closed Mandi these days.
Those handful of truckers ferrying apples load the produce in the orchards as the Mandi is closed.
“It is a tough situation, there are restrictions and there is a constant fear of stone pelting. A maximum of 40 trucks leave the mandi on a given day compared to 1,000 trucks in normal situations,” said Ruga Ram, a truck driver from Rajasthan.
A total of 75 per cent of apple production in the country comes from Kashmir. The government has not made it clear whether the scheme shall be a one-off event or continue year after year. Lot will depend on the response of the farmers, who are keenly looking at the scheme to figure out how this will benefit them.