Srinagar, May 5: General Secretary Jammu Kashmir Kisan Tehreek (JKKT) Tuesday said that last August clampdown and unseasonal snowfall in November 2019 crippled horticulture sector in Kashmir and urged the Center government to provide an immediate relief package of Rs 10,000 crore to uplift it.
Due to 7 November 2019 untimely snowfall thousands of crores damage happened to horticulture sector which was already reeling due to the situation arising after August 5 decision of the Center to abrogate Article 370 and subsequent security clampdown.
Trees carrying un-plucked crop collapsed and crop producing fruit trees were uprooted. The government had promised to pay compensation to the growers. But the compensation was a cruel joke with the growers.
And in October due to landslides and heavily snowfall Srinagar-Jammu national highway remained closed most of the times due to which most of the produce could not be exported to markets outside Kashmir. The growers preferred to store their produce in cold storage in Kashmir and outside as well. The fruit stored in cold storage is of special grade and is meant to fetch the market on higher rates lateron. Nearly five lakh tonness of ‘A’ grade fruit was stored in Kashmir.
However, nationwide lockdown announced in March to prevent spread of COVID-19 and subsequent closure of mandis across the country came as another shock for the fruit growers of Kashmir and it broke their back bone. The growers were compelled to go for distress sale, selling apples for Rs 400 to 500 at Azadpur Mandi in Delhi for which they had paid Rs 300 to 350 as cold store charges . One box of these apples were supposed to be sold not less than Rs 1200.Presently near about 2.5 lakh tonnes of A grade apples are pending in cold stores across Kashmir. If it remains unsold, nobody will come forward to buy new produce.
Under these circumstances, it is imperative upon the Center government to announce Rs 10,000 crore relief package to give some respite to the growers. Also government should continue its market intervention scheme and NAFED should keep its purchasing centres open country wide so that the left over produce can be sold at proper rates.
There should not be any distress sale for which the government has to intervene. The government must pay cold storage charges to save the growers as they have taken huge loans on which interest must be waived off. Apple should be made compulsory to be included for midday meals in government schools so that the growers will get some respite.
Government must also ensure the market support for cherry and strawberry crop which is almost ready for harvest. Crop insurance should be made compulsory for this sector with low premium. Substandard chemicals including pesticides and fungicides should be banned and all necessary measures should be taken in this regard.