Kashmiri apples stored in cold storages have nowhere to go with highway closed

Kashmiri apples stored in cold storages have nowhere to go with highway closed

SRINAGAR: This year Kashmiri apples which were preserved in newly introduced cold storages for off-season exports – the March to July months – won’t be able to make much because of the frequent closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway.
The off-season trade was pegged to bring in more money to the state after the apples’ shelf life was enhanced by preserving them in new cold storages established in the state. It was supposed to lead to gains per apple box, and enhance the trade by Rs 8,000 crore.
“But that possibility has become less of a possibility this year,” said Majid Wafie, president of the “controlled atmosphere stores association”.
“The apple industry has suffered 50 percent losses already when the season for selling the fruit has just begun,” Wafie said.
The introduction of cold storages in Kashmir had lifted expectations of increasing the life cycle of apples from their harvest to the market. Farmers after the autumn harvest took apples to storage units and kept them there for winter months. In spring, the apples were to be transported through the Jammu-Srinagar highway to Delhi and other states for sale in less than 36 hours, the time scientifically fit for keeping the fruit fresh. However, the closure of the highway for days together has meant that the apples have fetched half the price that was expected.
Cold storages had tapped only 2.5 percent of the total produce that brought good returns to the farmers last year. Even this has now run into trouble, first by bad weather, then by frequent landslides and the bi-weekly ban on civilian vehicles on the highway.
“When our fruit reached the market, fruits from other places were already there. Due to the long stay on the road, our fruit became less competitive. Producers had to sell it between Rs 400 and Rs 600 a box, against the standard of Rs 1200 per box,” Wafie said.
The prolonged and frequent highway closures are mounting losses for the producer who spends lakhs for preserving the fruit and then waits for three months to sell it in the market. Opening of other available alternative routes that connect Kashmir to the rest of the India might have saved him from the disaster in the making.