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Nine months on, 20% of Kashmir’s apple produce still in cold storage, yet to reach country’s markets

Nine months on, 20% of Kashmir’s apple produce still in cold storage, yet to reach country’s markets

Growers lament low demand, say influx of imported apples lead to financial losses, seek govt’s intervention

Jahangeer Ganaie

Srinagar, Jun 25 (KNO): For the very first time, the apple produce in Kashmir has remained in cold storage units for an extended period due to low demand. Over nine months have passed this year since apples were stored, and yet around 20 percent of them are still in storage and have not reached Indian markets.

Speaking with the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), the growers and traders expressed concern over this unusual situation. They said that based on current trends, Controlled Atmosphere (CA) units might continue to store last year's apples until the next season starts. “The prices have drastically decreased compared to the rates during the main apple season in October-November 2023,” they lamented.

“Even C-grade apples fetched more returns in the main season. This is an all-time low rate for produce kept in cold storage units,” they said, adding, “This is because apples in bulk quantity have been reaching Indian markets from different countries, thereby denting local apples.”

Shahid Ahmad, an employee of a cold storage unit, said that traders purchased produce in the main season at good rates but currently they aren't even getting what they spent on rent, labour, and other charges. He said rates have increased slightly in the last two weeks, but apples are still being sold at around Rs 600-650 per box, compared to Rs 1,200-1,500 in the main season.

“The increasing presence of South African apples in retail supermarkets and on e-commerce platforms across the country has exacerbated the situation. This influx has further reduced demand for Kashmiri apples, driving prices down and causing substantial losses for growers and traders,” Ahmad said.

Growers also criticised the government's slogan of "Sab Ka Sath Sab Ka Vikas" (Together With All, Development For All), claiming that despite promises to ban apple imports, the ground reality remains unchanged. They urged the government to take immediate steps to address the issue.

CA unit holders said they are also facing challenges as their stores remain occupied. They said that with the harvest of peaches, cherries and other products, they have started receiving orders for the storage of peaches. However, managing apples and other fruits simultaneously under such circumstances becomes a hectic job, they said.

“Currently, around 20 percent of the produce is still in cold storage units. We hope for an increase in demand to fetch better returns. However, the market remains very low,” said one of the CA unit holders, wishing to remain anonymous.

He said that growers suffered losses, but for the very first time, produce has been kept in CA for such a long time due to low demand, with growers hoping demand would increase, but that hasn't happened as of now.

Notably, approximately 3 lakh metric tons of apples are stored in different CA storages across Kashmir. On average, Kashmir produces over 20 lakh metric tonnes of apples annually, sometimes reaching up to 25 lakh metric tonnes.

According to the 2017 economic survey in J&K, half of Kashmir’s population is directly or indirectly dependent on the apple industry, with over 3.5 lakh hectares under apple cultivation—(KNO)

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