Srinagar: It is after two years that 60-year-old Ali Mohammad Bhat of Tangmarg is looking at a bumper cherry crop.
Hit by crop failures previously, Bhat had treaded cautiously this time using better quality pesticides to ensure disease-free produce.
For the last one month, he is spending sleepless nights as cherries are ready to be harvested but markets are closed due to the lockdown.
Coupled with a shortage of packaging boxes, Bhat is now in a fix whether to harvest the crop or buy some more time.
“This year the climate was good. We did not suffer any loss due to climatic conditions. However, transporting cherries is a problem because everything is shut due to lockdown,” he said.
Cherry is the first crop of fruit season and its harvesting begins from the first week of May. Kashmir produces 12000-13000 metric tonnes of cherry every year. Most of the cherries are exported to Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, and other cities.
Growers and dealers claim lockdown and dearth of the packaging material are likely to disturb their harvesting schedule this year.
“Cherry is a perishable fruit. Therefore, it is transported via flights and railways. We are in catch 22 situation because both modes of transport are shut due to the lockdown,” said Bashir Ahmad Basheer, President of Parimpora Fruit Mandi.
He said there is a huge shortage of packaging boxes because the factories are shut. “Packaging boxes known as bardana are not available in Kashmir. We have many factories but none of them have the raw material for making the boxes. Growers are not sure about harvesting the crop on time,” he said.
Kashmir Fruit Growers cum Dealers Union said `double cherry’ variety is likely to get affected due to the lockdown.
“Entire `double cherry’ variety is procured by factory owners for canning. Since these factories are closed, growers are staring at the loss,” the union said in a press statement.
Director Horticulture Planning and Marketing Department Imam Din said they have taken up the issue of transportation and availability of packaging boxes with the authorities.
“For transportation, we have directed the farmers to download `Kisan Rath’ app on mobile phones, which will help them getting vehicles for transportation. Further railway authorities from Jammu and Amritsar have been contacted to help in the transportation of cherry,” he said.
The director said they have arranged packaging boxes from Jammu. “A factory from Jammu has conveyed that it has enough boxes available,” he said.