Srinagar: Last summer, Ishaq Ahmad, a 55-year-old farmer from Baramulla, had stored 30 percent of the apple crop in the cold storage with a hope for better returns after March.
Come March 22, Ahmad’s dreams came crashing down when the government announced lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Thirty-seven days on, Ahmad’s produce is still lying in the cold storage since markets across the country are closed.
“I could send only 10 percent of my stored apple to New Delhi fruit market in the last one week. We are going through tough times due to closure of markets,” he said.
Ahmad is not an isolated case. Farmers across the valley are witnessing heavy losses as they are unable to ship their produce due to the lockdown.
As per the figures, farmers of Kashmir last year stored nearly one lakh tonnes of high-quality premium apple worth Rs 350 crore in 22 cold storages of the valley.
Around 3 million cartons of apple are currently lying in different cold storage across Kashmir.
President North Kashmir Fruit Growers and Dealers Association Fayaz Ahmad Malik said 30- 40 percent of the apple produce is lying unsold. “Due to the lockdown, no one is ready to buy apples. A box of apple which would cost Rs 900 is valued at Rs 300 in outside Kashmir markets,” he said.
Malik said only 20 trucks of apple are currently leaving for various markets of the country daily. “Last year we would witness at least 10 trucks of apple getting loaded from one cold storage of Kashmir daily. There are several storages in the valley,” he said.
To make up for the losses, many apple growers have started selling apples locally.
Farm2u, a cold-storage chain has started home delivery of apples during Ramadan.
“Few vehicles are allowed to transport apple to various markets of the country. Besides, rates have also dropped. If these apples are not sold in a certain period, their quality will get affected,” said Sana Masood, Chief Executive Officer of Farm2u.
Sana said since the expectation of the growers is not met they have come up with a concept to sell apple in the local market. “We have been delivering apple at people’s doorsteps in various districts including Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla,” she added.