Fruit growers at the Asia’s largest fruit mandi, Sopore, today held a protest against the forces for stopping their fruit-laden trucks on the national highway resulting in damage to the fruit.
Since the start of Amarnath Yatra, fruit traders alleged that not only trucks are stopped but drivers are also harassed. For the past many days, the growers from the Valley have been dispatching early varieties and stone fruit trucks to various fruit mandis across the country.
Sopore fruit mandi president Fayaz Ahmad Malik, alias Kakaji, who was leading the protest, said that for the last couple of days, the fruit-laden trucks bound for various states are being stopped and halted for hours.
“The stopping of fruit-laden trucks especially stone fruit which is highly perishable is causing loss to us. Now truck drivers are not ready to pick up our fruit crop and the fruit is lying at various mandis.”
Sopore fruit mandi in north Kashmir has started receiving early varieties of apples from different places besides stone fruit like peach and apricot. “Currently, we dispatch more than 45 trucks of fruit to different mandis from Sopore alone and the arrival of fruit is picking up and in July and August months. We will be dispatching 200 trucks of fruit from Sopore mandi alone. This harassment is causing us lot of losses which should be stopped,” Malik said, adding that the government should devise a mechanism that won’t hamper the transportation of fruit. “For growers and traders, the sale of first varieties of fruit is very important for flourishing of business. Any losses at the early stage can’t be compensated,” he said.
Malik said that they have apprised all the senior officers about the stopping of fruit on the national highway for the last many days but they failed to resolve this issue. “We now seek the help from J&K’s LG Manoj Sinha to resolve this issue, otherwise Valleys biggest trade will suffer,” he said.
Irshad Ahmad, another fruit grower, said that a few days ago the fruit was selling at ₹300 to 350 per box due to demand from traders.
“Now, the rates have gone down as there are no trucks and traders are not ready to lift the fruit. If this situation continues then all the mandis will shut down in the Valley,” he said.
Fruit is Valley’s mainstay industry that contributes to more than 8 percent of the UT’s gross domestic production. The UT produces 17,64,264 metric tonnes of fresh and 2,70,104 metric tonnes of dry fruit. Around 3.31 lakh hectare of land is under the fruit cultivation in Jammu and Kashmir, of which around 1.67 lakh hectares is under apple cultivation. The UT produces around 15,26,274 metric tonnes of apples per year. Around seven lakh farming families (approximately 35 lakh people) are directly or indirectly associated with the horticulture sector. Fruit contributes to around 8% of Jammu and Kashmir’s gross domestic produce.
Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti claimed harassment is being caused in the name of security. “J&K’s economy already in free fall since 2019 is being further crippled due to harassment caused under the pretext of security on the national highway. All transporters be it meat or fruit suppliers are suffering massive losses. @manojsinha_,” tweeted Mehbooba Mufti while reacting on stopping fruit-laden trucks on the national highway.