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Main apple market empty in Kashmir

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Wahid Bhat | Srinagar

In south Kashmir valley, the region’s famous apples are still waiting to be plucked from the trees. But shops and cold storage units are shut, and the main apple market is empty. Last year, it did business worth $197m, local farmers say.

“I feel so much pain seeing my apples hanging from the trees that I don’t go to the orchard anymore,” says a worried apple grower, who did not wish to be named.

“Apples account for 12–15% of Kashmir’s economy, but more than half of this year’s produce has not been plucked,” says economic journalist Masood Hussain. “If this continues, it will have devastating consequences.”

In Srinagar, some shop owners wait outside their stores and open them for a customer before closing them hurriedly – until the next customer arrives.

One such owner says he is unhappy with the government’s decision, but he is also scared of angry locals who want him to keep his business closed.

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“But how do I survive without my daily earnings?” he asked.

“When the farmers here started harvesting paddy crop, the apple growers also jumped into the field,” Bilal Ahmad from Chadoora said, adding, the people were waiting for more than a month to harvest the cash crop. 

The inhabitants here said that the agricultural activities have been going on normally like harvesting of vegetables from popular Budgam Village to harvesting of paddy crop in Chattergam and its adjoining area, however, the apple crop was dragged deliberately by people here.

Flanked by other growers, Ahmad said nobody actually knows that who had asked the apple growers here not to pluck the apples this season and similarly, no one has told them to pluck the apples now.” Here people are deciding every activity by themselves,” they said.

However, the traders carry their business activities in the evening hours in different parts of fruit Mandi in Kashmir valley and there is no buzz during the morning hours. 

The prevailing situation in Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370 and 35A by centre on August 5 has put life on halt and the apple growers have also decided not to pluck apple crop in the wake of revocation of special status.

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In these tough times, the fruit growers have settled for lesser prices this season despite proper processing, packaging and transportation.

 In recent years thousands of Kanals of paddy land was converted into apple orchards here.