An apple seller in Kashmir loads produce to be shipped across the country. | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
An apple seller in Kashmir loads produce to be shipped across the country. | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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New Delhi: Apple prices are likely to double in Delhi’s retail market in a month’s time because of the severe disruption in the supply chain from Kashmir, traders at Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi, Asia’s largest wholesale market for vegetables and fruits, told ThePrint.

Apples from Kashmir start coming to New Delhi in the last week of August. But the security clampdown, including restrictions on communication and transport, imposed in Kashmir since 5 August — when the Centre announced the scrapping of Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu & Kashmir — have completely skewed the supply of the Valley’s famed apples.

Adeel Khan, the chairman of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), Azadpur, told ThePrint the maximum wholesale price of apples in the mandi as on 6 September was Rs 85 per kg for “A” grade (top grade) fruit.

“So far, apple prices have been somewhat modest due to the huge consignment of apples from Himachal Pradesh,” he added, “August is their peak season. But the harvesting of apples in the Valley starts towards the latter part of August, after which it’s supplied out of Kashmir.”

Traders told ThePrint that apple prices can rise to Rs 200-Rs 250/kg from the existing Rs 100-Rs 130 per kg in the markets because of the ongoing Kashmir crisis.

Concerned about the fallout, the Centre is said to have stepped in to help apple growers in Kashmir. The government, a source told ThePrint, is working on a massive procurement plan with the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) — the government agency for promotion of co-operative marketing of agricultural produce for the benefit of farmers — to buy apple produce from the Valley.

100 per cent rise in apple price

Many traders at the Azadpur Mandi said they expected an estimated 100 per cent increase in wholesale price of apples because of the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir.

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“The retail prices are likely to see a 200 per cent increase with prices going as high as Rs 200 to Rs 250 per kg,” said Ramphal Panwar, an apple trader.

A senior official at Azadpur APMC said around 400 trucks loaded with apples usually arrived from Kashmir daily in the first week of September. “But it has barely touched double digits this year,” the official added.

“In the first week of September, 2,786 tonnes of apple have been unloaded in the mandi, which is approximately 777 tonnes less than the arrival in the corresponding period last year.”

Also read: Ajit Doval says not one bullet fired in Kashmir in the past month, a record since 1988


Apple traders in Azadpur Mandi a worried lot

Traders in the mandi are a worried lot as many of them struck advance contracts with orchard owners in Kashmir.

“Traders are now concerned that if the apples are not stored properly, they might rot. A truck standing on the route for three days could devalue an apple consignment by 30-50 per cent as the crop is highly perishable,” another APMC official said.

Jaswant Singh, a fruit trader at Azadpur mandi, told ThePrint that, this year, owing to fewer hailstorms in the Valley, he placed a massive advance order for Rs 1.5 crore with three farmers in Shopian.

“I have also given an advance of Rs 36 lakh to them. I don’t know the status of my order as I have not been able to talk to the farmers because of the communication blackout,” he added.

Singh said he was too afraid to visit Kashmir to check on the status of his order. “Section 144 is implemented there. My family does not want me to take the risk and go right now,” he added.

Though there is a condition of 6 per cent payback if the orchard owner doesn’t fulfil his promise of apple delivery, Singh said traders in the mandi hardly invoked it as it hurt trust as well as business prospects in the long term.

Another trader, Ramphal Panwar, pointed out another factor behind the expected price rise. Kashmir apples, he said, are the ones stored at the mandi for long-term use, till around March.

“As of now, the apple produce from Kullu has kept wholesale price in control at Rs 60-85 per kg, but if the produce from Kashmir doesn’t come, the rates might double up in a month’s time to Rs 150 per kg in wholesale and Rs 200-Rs 250 per kg in retail,” he added.

Govt steps in

An official at NAFED who did not want to be named told ThePrint that, in a couple of days, the government will announce a market intervention scheme along with the creation of an APMC for Jammu & Kashmir, similar to the Himachal Pradesh Horticultural Produce Marketing and Processing Corporation, for procuring apples from the Valley.

APMCs are state government-constituted committees to ensure transparency and farmer welfare in mandi dealings. J&K currently doesn’t have one.

“NAFED wants to procure around 70 per cent of the apples produced in the Valley. And the rate at which we are planning to buy will be Rs 10-20 (per kg) more than the usual wholesale prices,” the official added, “We will then dump the produce in the state APMC’s branches across the country though the bulk will be at Azadpur mandi.”

He said NAFED was also working with state co-operatives and committees to create temporary storage for the apple produce till they are transported out of the Valley.

Also read: Along LoC in Gulmarg, they’re more worried about food & jobs, not Article 370


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