Top trader defends practice, says it helps get higher rate for a better fruit lot
Shopian: Even after Kashmir having its own fruit mandis, where hundreds of traders come from all over India to buy fruit, people who actually grow the fruit continue to feel cheated by traders due to a practice they term as “underhand auction”.
Bilal Ahmad Sheikh, an apple grower in Shopian, said that the people who work throughout the year to grow quality fruit, at the end find themselves in darkness about the proper rate for their fruit. “We spend the whole year and considerable money on growing the fruit but when it is sold, the rates are set in a manner that is kept hidden from us. Traders just tell us the rate and grab their commission after setting deals in an underhand auction,” Sheikh said.
Most of the fruit growers in Kashmir send their fruit to mandis without going there in person. In mandis, the trader who receives the fruit allegedly sells it a price that is arrived through the aforesaid “underhand auction”. Growers say this opaque practice not only results in decrease in rates but also traders grabbing a hefty amount over and above their commission.
Muhammad Rafi, who has about 20 kanals of land under apple cultivation, said that there are hundreds of mandis in India where open auction of fruits and vegetables takes place. “If there isn’t anything fishy in the underhand auction, why don’t they do an open auction? Conducting the auction in secrecy is ample evidence that growers and orchardists are being cheated,” he said.
Orchardists complain that aren’t any laws or mechanisms through which traders can be held accountable for the rates they set. Muhammad Ashraf Wani, one of the top traders at Shopian fruit mandi, told Kashmir Reader that the rates are only arrived at the end of the “underhand auction”, so even fellow traders do not know about them until the auction ends, when the rates set are told to the growers. “I think this system is better for the seller. Due to underhand auction, we are able to ask for more rates for a particular fruit lot,” Wani said.