Kashmir’s fruit industry suffers blow as transporters’ strike paralyses transportation

Srinagar, Jan 2

 

In a  setback for Kashmir’s thriving fruit industry, the far-reaching consequences of the nationwide ‘Chakka Jam’ strike have dealt a severe blow to growers here.

The protest, led by transporters and truck drivers nationwide, comes in opposition to the enforcement of a new penal law, with a particular emphasis on hit-and-run cases. As the strike disrupts transportation networks, Kashmir’s fruit growers are left grappling with substantial losses and the looming threat of damaged produce.

Fayaz Ahmad Malik, Sopore Fruit Growers Association said the strike has severely impacted the transportation of apples from Kashmir to other states across the country.

He said that atleast 2500 trucks loaded with apple fruit were transported from Kashmir to other states of the country every day. ”  But due to the strike, only 700 to 800 trucks are being transported now from the valley,” he said.

Malik said, that, the fruit industry is facing losses too. ” The market value of the apple boxes, originally priced at Rs 1200, has plummeted to Rs 600 to Rs 700. Despite the reluctance to load trucks, growers are compelled to do so, fearing the detrimental effects of storing fruit in sub-zero temperatures. The strike has affected us badly,” he said.

The repercussions extend beyond financial losses. Apples are unable to reach various states, growers are resorting to storing their produce in sheds and outside homes, raising concerns about potential damage.

He said that 25 percent of apples from North Kashmir only were dispatched to different states across the country but in a few days it badly affected the supply.

” There is a fear among growers, that loading trucks will pose a risk. If the trucks do not reach the mandir outside, our fruits will be damaged,” he said.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Ashraf Wani, a prominent apple cultivator and former president of Fruit Mandi Shopian, said that around 2 lakh metric tonnes were stored in CA stores.

“The un-stored harvest is over 5 percent, awaiting transportation to outside mandis,” Wani said.

He said that the nationwide strike by truck drivers against jail and fine regulations under the newly introduced Bhartiya Nyay Sanhita( BNS) for hit-and-run cases had fuelled concerns among the traders and growers.

The apple-rich district is home to a large number of apple orchards, sprawling over thousands of kanal, with more than 80 percent of the people relying on the fruit industry for their livelihood.

The district annually produces around 3 to 3.5 lakh metric tonnes of apples.

Pir Shabir Ahmad, executive member Fruit Association Shopian and president Pesticides Dealers and Distributors Association (PDDA), said that a protracted strike could spur fertiliser crisis in the area.

Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Union, representing all Fruit Growers Associations in the region, is grappling with mounting concerns as transporters and truck drivers across India have announced a Chakka Jam (roadblock) in protest against the implementation of a new Penal Law addressing Hit & Run cases.

BY RABIYA BASHIR and GULZAR BHAT

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