Apple growers use mini-trucks to ship produce outside Valley

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Photo for representation only.

Jammu, September 20: Facing continued threat from militants, apple growers in Kashmir are using small vehicles to ferry their produce outside the Valley.

The crop is loaded in mini-trucks and then transferred to bigger trucks enroute as the militants have warned the horticulturists not to send their produce outside the Valley after the abrogation of Article 370 by the Central Government on August 5.

Although the government has announced Special Market Intervention Scheme to procure 12 lakh MT of apple produce directly from the farmers by National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) this year, which is estimated to cost Rs 8,000 crore, many small growers see it beneficial only for big orchardists.

“The crop is loaded under fear and many farmers send their produce in batches in small pickup vehicles. It has increased the transport cost, but it is the only way to avoid reprisals by the militant groups”, said a grower at Narwal Mandi, one of the biggest agricultural markets in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, all of them spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The police are there, but they cannot ensure security to everybody. The growers in the Valley are caught between the guns of the security forces and militants”, said another trader from Anantnag.

Baramulla, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag districts produce most of the apple, peach and plums, which have a huge market in mainland India. But there have been several attacks on traders and in the past three weeks, several vehicles have been burnt by the militants to stop the horticulture shipments.

“It is a difficult year as a very few apple trucks are coming from the Valley. It is just 10 per cent of what we used to get during the previous years. The communication clampdown has affected the banking transitions” said Aftab Choudhary, fruit distributor at Narwal, who is in contact with the growers in the Valley.

Another problem faced by the growers is the lack of labour force as thousands of workers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh fled the Valley after the Central Government revoked the special status.

Several attacks on traders in past 

Baramulla, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag districts produce most of the apple, peach and plum, which have a huge market in the country. But there have been several attacks on traders and in the past three weeks, several vehicles have been burnt by the militants to stop the horticulture shipments.

‘Crop loaded under fear’

The crop is loaded under fear and many farmers send their produce in batches in small pickup vehicles. It has increased the transport cost, but it is the only way to avoid reprisals by militant groups . — A grower at Narwal Mandi