‘Trucks halted for days together, fruit spoils in heat meanwhile’
SHOPIAN: To see the fruit of one’s labour rotting away in a truck, and then the spoiled fruit being sold at the price of scrap, is a punishment that thousands of Kashmiris are undergoing for no fault of theirs. Some of this punishment they could accept as fate, as when landslides and inclement weather shut down the highway, but not when the trucks carrying the fruit are stopped “unnecessarily” by the authorities.
It is a complaint and a lament that is being voiced by fruit growers and traders in Kashmir for many days now, especially this year.
Wasim Ahmad Teli, a trader, told Kashmir Reader that this year he has only sustained losses. Five of his fruit trucks were stopped on the highway for three days, he said.
“The apple must reach the market on time. If they stop it even for a day, it fetches less price than what we pay to the growers. In addition to that, we are forced to pay toll taxes and transportation charges from our own pockets,” Teli said.
Another trader who was accompanying Waseem said that one of his fruit trucks took three days to reach Udhampur from Qazigund. “It’s the responsibility of the government to facilitate smooth movement of fruit trucks. If the situation remains the same, there will definitely be huge losses to the traders,” he said.
Traders here in Shopian say that all the trucks are halted to allow other traffic, so when they are allowed to move, it invariably creates a logjam, further delaying the fruits from reaching the market. The fruit then has to be sold at lesser rates as either it arrives in bulk at once, or has become so spoiled in the heat that no one considers it worth buying.
Gopal Das, the chief executive officer of a Delhi-based trading firm, told Kashmir Reader that the trucks from
Kashmir reach the market with weeks’ delay. “We heard that it is happening due to some traffic jam. Once all the trucks together reach the market, it affects the price of fruit due to supply being much more than demand,” he said, adding that fresh fruit gets better rates compared to that which gets spoiled on the way due to heat.
The president of the fruit mandi at Aglar, Shopian, Mohammad Ashraf said that his association has suggested the government to use the Mughal Road for movement of empty trucks, to avoid traffic jam on the national highway (NH-44). “We were told this morning that more than 2,700 trucks have reached the Delhi market together. Now what will happen with that fruit, when there is demand of only 500-600 such trucks,” he said.
On Tuesday, fruit growers and traders at the Sopore fruit mandi even staged a protest against the stopping of trucks by the authorities.
Ashraf said that the authorities must keep in mind that the highway frequently gets closed due to landslides and inclement weather. “They are stopping trucks even in normal weather these days,” he said.
Growers say that when the trucks are stopped under direct sunlight, the heat spoils the apples quickly. “There is already high temperature and the polythene sheets used on trucks to cover the fruit add to the heat. It spoils the fruit from inside,” said Showkat Ahmad, a grower.
They said that all this is being done when the government knows well what kind of crisis the apple industry is going through in Kashmir.
Ahmad said that he sent a truckload of apple to Delhi which reached there with five days’ delay. “When the Delhi trader sent me photos of my apple, I was stunned to see its condition. It was all because of the five days of unnecessary halting of the trucks by the authorities,” he said.
Ashraf told Kashmir Reader that the issue has been brought to the notice of the horticulture department as well as of the traffic police. “We have been assured of hassle-free movement. Let’s hope for best,” he said.