At a time when the Himachal government is talking about taking steps to streamline marketing of agricultural products, small, marginal farmers remain hamstrung by the absence of cold storage facilities in the state. Fruit and vegetable growers have been persistently demanding low-cost small capacity cold storages that would vastly benefit them in selling their produce.
Though apples are the main cash crop in six districts there is little or no post-harvest infrastructure. The two controlled atmospheric (CA) stores in the state do not serve the purpose as most apple cultivators are marginal.
Mahendra Upadhyaya, president of the Kullu Fruit Growers Association, said fruits and vegetables are grown in the Kullu valley in a big way but due to the absence of cold storages farmers are forced to sell their entire produce in the market at the prevailing prices. "If there are cold storage facilities farmers can earn a lot more money. For marginal growers small cold storages are more useful and it would be more beneficial if they are installed in houses. We have heard there is technology through which a simple room could be turned into a cold store and the government should focus on bringing this technology to the farmers," he added.
Rakesh Mehta, an apple grower in Kotgarh, said: "Instead of investing in large cold stores the government should support marginal fruit and vegetable growers to build low cost cold storages. The two controlled atmospheric cold storages are not benefitting most cultivators."
The two controlled atmospheric cold storages, located in Jarol and in Gumma in Shimla district, each have a capacity of 640 metric tonnes. 75% of the space in both stores rented out to a private firm, Gemtree, for five years while the remaining space is left for fruit and vegetable growers. The himachal pradesh horticulture produce marketing committee has roped in a German company to introduce low-cost cold storage technology in the state.