Sopore, Sep 29: The fruit growers in North Kashmir’s Apple Town Sopore are annoyed with the government for failing to resolve their genuine issues associated with this industry.
Witnesses told news agency KNT that hundreds of fruit growers and buyers continue to hold protest, demanding concerned authorities to permit the stranded fruit-laden trucks to proceed towards their respective destinations.
The protesting fruit growers demanded smooth movement of vehicles on Jammu-Srinagar national highway.
The protesters were holding placards and banners carrying demands like “Save fruit industry”, “Save Growers”, “Open N/H-44 24 Hours for fruit laden trucks” and M.I.S Chaloo Karo”.
They lamented that authorities are “unnecessarily” stopping fruit laden trucks on Srinagar-Jammu highway which adds to the sufferings of this already hit industry.
While expressing serious concern over the recent announcement of a package given by the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha in which he dropped this sector. The aggrieved protesters said that the sector has been ignored in the package.
The apple industry in Kashmir had already suffered heavy losses last year due to the prolonged lockdown after abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and before that, due to unseasonal snowfall, inclement weather, and frequent shutdown of the national highway.
The protesting fruit growers termed this decision as a step-motherly attitude towards Asia’s second largest fruit Mandi.
They warned that they would suspend trade at Fruit Mandi Sopore in case law enforcement agencies continued to stop fruit and vegetable-laden trucks along the highway.
Sopore Fruit Mandi president, Fayaz Ahmad Malik said that despite approaching the higher authorities, they are continuously showing a neglected attitude towards this sector, thus putting the fruit growers in trouble. They said it has been two years since people associated with this sector are facing huge losses.
He said authorities hardly bother to take any step towards the development of this sector.
President also demanded the revocation of the M.I.A scheme at earliest and compensation to the growers for the unnecessary losses suffered by them due to avoidable halts on national highways.
According to government officials, Kashmir exports around 20 lakh metric tons of apple every year and the horticulture industry is pegged to be worth around 8000 to 9000 crore including the employment it generates. The fruit earns Kashmir Rs 8000 crores annually, and provides livelihood to 33 lakh people including seven lakh farmers.
Pertinently, last year in November Kashmir’s Rs 8,000 crore apple industry received a major jolt, as the first snowfall of the season ravaged the apple orchards across the Valley. Huge damage to the orchards had been reported from Baramulla and Shopian districts while Kulgam, Kupwara, and Budgam also suffered heavy damage.