Shopian: The J&K Government this year has made special arrangements for transport subsidy to ferry Kashmiri cherry to different parts of India. The arrangements include 25 percent subsidy to farmers who opt for air traffic and refrigerator trucks to send their cherry to other parts of India.
Director Horticulture, Kashmir, Ajaz Ahmad Bhat told Kashmir Reader that refrigerator vehicles which bring different items like milk, ghee and other short-shelf life items will be taking cherry in return from Kashmir valley.
“This two-way income to the trucks will create an environment where they will be available every time for ferrying Kashmir fruit, that too on farmer-friendly transportation charges,” he said.
Bhat said that the government is providing 25 percent subsidy on transportation charges to farmers who will send the produce through air traffic and refrigerator trucks.
“Using air traffic and refrigerator vehicles will help us get our produce to those stations where it was not reaching earlier. It will automatically lift the rates of cherry and it will also reach places where people do not know about cherry,” he said.
Kashmir on average produces 15 thousand metric tonnes of cherry every year. Shopian in south Kashmir and Ganderbal and Srinagar in central Kashmir are the biggest cherry producer districts of Kashmir. According to officials of horticulture department, there is no precise estimate of cherry production but it is approximately 12 thousand metric tonnes.
The officials said that procurement of cherry by NAFED is another feather in the cap of the cherry industry as the agency for the first time will buy the cherry directly from the growers as per quality and weight standards. This will cut out the middlemen and will fetch more gains to the producers.
In the last five to eight years, Kashmir has been growing over a dozen cherry brands which include more than five Italian varieties, an American variety, the traditional Mishri, Dabal, Siya, and some other imported varieties.
The sector, according to officials, saw a huge decline post 2006 when most of the traditional crop started getting affected by rain and diseases. After 2012, the introduction of new imported varieties again revived it and there has been huge increase in production since.
The cherry crop according to growers is the best of its kind as far as fetching a mid-year income is concerned. They say that cherry is the crop which helps them run expenses smoothly and also provides employment to hundreds of people who are hired for picking and packing cherry.