Jammu and Kashmir governor launches scheme for direct apple sale
Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik on Thursday launched a marketing intervention scheme (MIS) for fruit growers in the Valley, under which they could sell their produce directly to the government-run National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) at five designated spots , a senior official said on the condition of anonymity.
The move comes two days after the Centre announced a plan to procure apples from the growers in Jammu and Kashmir and make payments directly to their bank accounts. The five spots where the fruit growers will be able to sell their produce to NAFED are Sopore, Parimpora [Srinagar], Shopian, Pulwama and Anantnag, the official cited above said.
Kashmir is India’s largest apple grower with an average annual production of nearly 2,200 metric tonnes. Apple industry fetches revenue of nearly Rs 1,300 crore, according to a state government website.
September, October and November are considered the peak season when different varieties of the fruit are harvested and sent to domestic markets as well as foreign countries. However, fruit markets, like other business establishments in the Kashmir Valley, have remained shut after restrictions were imposed there following the Centre’s decision to scrap of Article 370 that gave special status to J&K and bifurcate the state into two union territories.
The latest move is aimed at addressing concerns of the fruit growers, who feared monetary losses if their produce was not sent to other markets on time.
Ajaz Ahmad, director (horticulture) said the NAFED would start exporting fruit from five designated spots from Thursday itself.
People familiar with the matter said that a high-level team of officials from state government and NAFED has been constituted to monitor the implementation of the scheme. “The scheme has started from today and in the coming days NAFED will be lifting major chunk of the fruit from Valley mandis [wholsesale markets],’’ the official cited above said. “The growers will have to only take their produce to designated spots. The NAFED will arrange transport for dispatching the fruit across the country. They [the growers] can now sell the harvest without paying commission to agents.’’
A price committee with a member from the National Horticulture Board will fix prices according to the quality of the produce.
Launching the scheme on Thursday, Malik said those threatening fruit growers in the Valley will be “punished” and asserted that the government will protect the farming community.
His remarks came after a terror attack on September 7 on a fruit merchant’s home in Sopore which left four persons, including a two-and-a-half-year-old girl, injured.
“We will immediately punish those threatening farmers. So, no one should harass or threaten farmers. If any farmer does not want to sell the produce, we will not force him.
“But, if he is selling and you threaten him and even fire at his two-year-old daughter, then you cannot remain free for a long time,” Malik said.
The scheme will be implemented in the state by the directorate of planning and marketing, and supported by the directorate of horticulture, Kashmir, and the Jammu and Kashmir Horticultural Produce, Marketing and Processing Corporation Ltd, an official spokesman said.
Highlighting the importance of horticulture in the state’s economy, the governor said with a turnover of Rs 8,000 crore per year in this sector and close to 7 lakh families being directly or indirectly associated with it, this sector, the farmers and the process needs focused support.
(PTI contributed to this story)