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1 lakh-tonne Kashmiri apples lying in cold storage may rot during coronavirus lockdown

Last Updated 16 April 2020, 07:35 IST

One lakh tonnes of apples lying in cold storages in Kashmir may rot in coming days during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.

According to traders in Kashmir, there was a satisfactory demand for apples but it all vanished overnight when the nation-wide lockdown began in late March. They pay for cold storages but are unsure about the future as the coronavirus lockdown has forced all markets and transport shut.

One of the biggest worries for the traders and growers is that apples can be stored only for about seven months in cold storages. “That period has already ended,” said Ghulam Hassan Dar, a trader who has been in the business since a decade.

Last year, a record 1.5 lakh metric tonnes of apples were stored in cold units in Kashmir, half a lakh tonnes up from previous years. The post-August circumstances in Kashmir forced most of the growers to store the apple rather than to sell it.

Recently the government had allowed the traders to export the fruit with a limited number of trucks being allowed on the roads, but they say there are no buyers in Azadpur Mandi in Delhi due to the lockdown.

“Local demand, too, is almost nil. When no buyers come, the fruit is left in the Mandi and the intense hot temperature spoils it,” said Iqbal Ahmad, a trader from south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

Izhan Javid, a Lasipora-based cold chains owner, said that the apple sector is going through its worst phase ever. “Last year, closure of the highway ruined the apple trade and now the lockdown is doing it,” he said, adding that the fare charges at this time used to be Rs 15,000 per truck, but drivers now take Rs 35,000 per truck.

The fruit industry in Kashmir already suffered heavy losses last year due to the prolonged security lockdown after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 and subsequently due to unseasonal snowfall in November and frequent closure of Srinagar-Jammu national highway.

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(Published 16 April 2020, 07:34 IST)

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