Shopian: Given the decline in production and the majority of the apple crop affected by fungal diseases this year, the cold storage units in Kashmir are lying empty. Even some stores are yet to get the first box of this year’s apple for storage.
Kashmir has about 30 cold storage units having capacity to store two lakh metric tonnes of fruit, including the cold storages which were constructed this year.
Kashmir Reader spoke to many cold storage owners based in Lasipora industrial estate of Pulwama and others based at Aglar Shopian. Almost all of the owners have similar complaints of a harsh season for their sector.
They said that first there has been a huge decline in the production due to which growers have little fruit to store, and second, more than half of the production has been affected either by fungal infection called scab or by hailstorms.
“There is no point in storing the scab and hail affected fruit in the cold stores. It will rot there because of its condition,” said Mushtaq Ahmad, a grower.
Izhan Javid, chief executive officer of a leading fruit related company based in Kashmir, told Kashmir Reader that very few people are storing their fruit in cold stores. “Our stores are almost empty and obviously it will heavily affect the owners of the storages,” he said.
Mukhtar Ahmad, owner of a cold storage unit, said that it costs them four crore rupees to run a cold storage. “Around one crore is being charged for electricity, two to 2.5 crore as bank interest for loans taken by us, and around one more crore for staffers, employees and technicians,” he said.
He said that when there is no fruit in stores, all the expenses have to be paid from one’s own pockets. “Whether for one thousand or seven thousand metric tonnes, we incur similar expenditure,” said Mukhtar.
Besides the diseases, hail, and low production, experts believe that last year’s losses sustained to the stored fruit due to COVID lockdown and closure of highway were among the reasons for people not storing their fruit in cold units.
“A large chunk of fruit spoiled in stores as there was lockdown in place. Some of the traders sustained crores of losses and growers faced the same fate,” said Gulzar Ahmad Khan, a horticulture expert.
Pulwama’s Lasipora industrial area has around 22 cold storage units, while there are six at Aglar Shopian, one at Anantnag, two at Rangreth Srinagar and three in north Kashmir. Their total capacity is of around two lakh metric tonnes of fruit.
The Director of Horticulture in Kashmir had earlier told Kashmir Reader that there is approximately 30 percent decline in production of apples compared to last year.
Last year Kashmir produced 23 lakh metric tonnes of apple, which according to officials was a record. If the government figures are to be relied upon, then Kashmir has approximately produced 15 lakh metric tonnes of apple.