Despite the 68-day-long ban in mobile and internet connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir, trade of Kashmiri apples has picked up in the wholesale fruit market at Azadpur in Delhi. But traders and growers say that a lot still needs to be done to maintain the supply of the agricultural produce at a normal level.
"Nearly 250 trucks laden with apples on an average are arriving in the market on a daily basis presently. But last year during this season 300 to 325 trucks arrived every day," said Metharam Kriplani, president of the Kashmiri Apple Merchants Association.
A source at the market says that the number of apple trucks that arrived at the market on Friday morning was even lower at 144.
The amount of apples supplied from Kashmir to the Delhi market belies the fear that the restive condition in the Valley would result in total snapping of the trade of Kashmiri apples. An article published in Firstpost showed that the Valley is likely to register a robust production of apples this year at 1,956,331 metric tonnes and between 1,200 and 1,400 fruit trucks have passed through Lakhanpur each night this fortnight, figures similar to past years.
But traders and growers say that the credit for the continuing supply goes more to the dynamic forces of the market than to the government.
"Kashmiris are honest people who stick to their promise. Every year, the traders in Delhi pay advance money to the apple growers to meet their production requirement. And they supply apples during this season every year. They have tried their best to maintain the supply this year also,” said Kriplani.
The main deterrent to a hassle-free supply of the Valley's agricultural produce is the lack of an adequate number of trucks to transport apples out of the Valley.
“In the normal course, the trucks that transport goods such as edible items, crockeries and clothes to the Valley carry apples to the markets out of the Valley. But after the abrogation of Article 370, the markets in the Valley have shut down and the number of Kashmir-bound trucks has decreased drastically,” said another source, un-willing to be named.
On account of the present condition, the apple growers are only left with the option of depending on the limited number of trucks available in the Valley, which has strained the supply chain.
Mansoor Ahmed, an apple grower from the Valley who arrived in the market Friday with his truck of apples, told Firstpost that many apple growers have incurred losses due to a lack of adequate transport infrastructure.
"Though we did not face any security threat during transportation, it is true that many growers have not picked apples from the orchards due to the ongoing crisis in the Valley,” said Ahmed.
He also added that the shortage in the number of trucks to carry apples have resulted in shooting up of transportation charges.
“Last year, we transported apples to Delhi at Rs 65 to Rs 70 per parcel of 15 kilogrammes. But on account of the present condition, the charges have gone up to Rs 120 this year,” he said.
The rise in transportation charges has made the business less profitable for growers as the price for apple has not increased at a similar rate.
Metha Ram Kripalani says that the prices paid to apple traders have also increased as compared to last year, but the increase is marginal and has not helped maintain the profitability of the business for the growers.
"The supply was higher last year and hence the prices were lower. Since the supply is low this time the prices have gotten a bit higher,” he says.
There are three qualities of Kashmiri apples sold in the market — gift grade, top grade and third grade.
As per official sources in the market, the gift grade quality is sold at Rs 70 to Rs 80 per kilogram this year against Rs 65 per kilogramme last year. On the other hand, the price of the top grade apple has increased by Rs 10 and is sold at Rs 40 to Rs 50 per kilogramme, though the price of third grade apple has remained static at Rs 25 to Rs 30 at the most.
The traders suggest that the solution to this problem is granting incentives to transport services to resume their business operations.
“The scarcity of trucks can be dealt with by providing incentives such as slashing of permit charges to transport companies based out of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana on the condition of choosing to continue operations in Kashmir,” said Kripalani.
Majnoor Ahmed, an apple trader told Firstpost that the scarcity of truck is only a part of the problem, ban on mobile phones is an even bigger menace.
“The growers get orders on the phone. If there is no phone line then how would they receive orders for supplies? A free flow of supply can be achieved only if the ban on phone lines is lifted entirely,” he said.
As per a news report, postpaid mobile services are likely to resume from Saturday. This measure may remove some of the bottlenecks faced by apple growers and traders, but how, remains to be seen.
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Updated Date: Oct 14, 2019 21:48:50 IST