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‘Govt willing to ship apple, cherry by air if confirmed buyers available’

Srinagar: The J&K government is willing to arrange air transfer of apple and cherry produce if the orchardists and businessmen dealing with horticulture in Kashmir are able to find confirmed buyers in other states, the Kashmir Business Chamber has been assured.

In a statement on Friday, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said its delegation met Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Pandurang K Pole and discussed a range of issues with regards to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown and its disastrous impact on the business and economy of Kashmir.

Discussing the horticulture sector, president KCCI Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad apprised the Div Com about various issues facing this sector dealing in time-sensitive crops like apples and cherries.

The pandemic had disrupted the traditional markets for these products and hit prices, the Chamber, as per a statement, told the Divisional Commissioner.

Pole informed the members of the delegation that the Government was already working on the issue and it was not only the problem of transportation but also disruption of forward linkages of customary markets. He stated that the Government was trying to make operational maximum number of local canning units which could preserve part of the cherry crop. He asked the KCCI delegation to explore potential markets and the Government would be willing to support air transfer in cases of confirmed buyers.

Members from the general trade and FMCG sector highlighted the problems of continuous closure and stockpiling of potentially dead stocks. They stated that despite general directions for opening of shops dealing in essential commodities and groceries, provision stores and supermarkets in Kashmir had not so far been allowed to open their shutters.

Only some shops have been designated for home deliveries and they are also facing various problems in purchases of stocks as well as making deliveries. The C&F Agents/Distributors dealing in essential commodities have not been able to settle accounting issues with the huge number of shops lying closed nor have they been able to move stocks in a planned manner. The cash flow has been severely disrupted.

The Div Com stated that the ground situation was different in Kashmir falling in the Red Zone. However, they would consider opening of more shops dealing in essential commodities and requested the KCC&I to compile a list of shops opening of which would ease the supply situation further and also help the wholesalers/distributors to conduct business in a planned manner. The continuous closure of shops dealing in mobile phones and losses suffered by the dealers was also discussed.

President of KHAROF, Wahid Malik discussed the operational problems of Hotels being used as COVID-19 facility. Manzoor Pakhtoon, Chairman, JKTA highlighted the problems of the tourism sector including houseboats and tour/travel sector.

The representatives of the CA Stores Association and Lassipora Industrial Estate thanked Pole for his personal intervention after one positive case was detected in Lassipora Estate and the whole Estate was locked down.

Pole had been kind enough to visit Lassipora personally and supervise the early resumption of operations. The representatives of CA Stores Association also drew the attention of Pole towards the closure of a CA Store in Rangreth Industrial Area with substantial stocks lying inside. Pole stated that they were following prescribed protocols but the issue of stocks would be considered.

Pole stated that the business community also had to come forward and take effective precautionary steps to sanitise areas of operation. He appreciated the role played by the KCC&I in spreading awareness about the measures required to be taken by business establishments for safe operations. He stated that the sharing of responsibility by the administration and the business community was important for overcoming the unprecedented crisis successfully.

The problems being faced in transportation of goods was also brought to the notice of Pole. He stated that they have decided to exempt Goods Carrier vehicles from the requirement of Movement Passes and a public notification would be soon issued in this regard.

Shiekh Ashiq Ahmad thanked the Divisional Commissioner for the interaction and deliberations on pressing issues.

The delegation comprised of members representing various economic sectors including hotels, handicrafts, tourism and travel, general trade and FMCG, food processing, horticulture and representatives of the Industrial Estate Lassipora and CA Stores Association Lassipora.