Peace Benefits Kashmir's Fruit Growers

Peace Benefits Kashmir's Fruit Growers

19 December 2012
Khabar South Asia
Adil Akhzer

Srinagar: Shafiq Ahmad is relieved to see peace and stability returning to the Kashmir Valley. The 42-year-old apple trader from Sopore has experienced the effects of turmoil. 'We suffered so much during the unrest. Our fresh apples could not reach Delhi on time,' he told Khabar. 'I am thankful to God that for the last two years, everything is going according to how we hoped. I am hopeful that normalcy will prevail in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) during the coming times, as it directly affects our trade.' Fruit growers are now not only able to deliver their products to other parts of India, but are also gaining access to lucrative international markets. Ahmad says he has been exporting his apples to Bhutan over the past two years. Exports have surged in recent years, according to Qazi Aijaz Ahmad, deputy director of marketing and planning for the J&K Horticulture Department. This year through December, 700,000 metric tonnes of fruit was sent outside the state. 'From the last few years, there is a surge in fruit production in Kashmir,' he said. 'Fruit gets exported to countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.' More than with many other products, the successful harvesting and marketing of fruit require a stable environment, he said. 'Fruits are perishable items. If there is an uncertainty regarding their delivery to the intended markets, traders can suffer a big loss, especially in periods of unrest,' Ahmad said. 'Hence, from harvesting to transportation, this trade needs a stable environment.' His department helps growers in every possible way, but peace is a prerequisite, he added. 'We have many schemes for growers which are linked with the production of fruits on the ground. All the schemes get implemented, only when normalcy is around. If there are strikes, things will not go in a smooth manner,' Qazi said. Open markets, rising profits Bashir Ahmad Bashir, president of New Fruits Kashmir Association, told Khabar that peace and stability in Kashmir is helping growers. 'We cannot deny the fact that once you have peace around, things go in a smooth manner,' he said. 'Fruit growers can sell their fruits at a good rate during normal conditions as there is no distress sale. Over last few years, people related to this trade are yielding more profits, by exporting fruits to nearby countries.' Their success has a ripple effect on the economy in general, he said. 'We have a huge number of people who are associated with this horticulture sector,' he said. 'Once you have normalcy around, fruit traders can get more revenue, which in turn helps the economy of the state.' Nazir Ahmad Ganai is a 53-year-old farmer from north Kashmir. 'During the unrest in 2008, and the insurgency in the 1990s, we suffered a lot,' Ganai said. 'But over the last two years, we have been able to deliver our products on time, and that has boosted our confidence to aim higher for farther markets which would help us to earn more benefits.' Qazi Mohammed Shafi, a spokesman for Jammu and Kashmir's Director General of Police, told Khabar the police department is taking every step to ensure the safety of people in the state. 'From the last two years, Kashmir is witnessing peace, and development is going on in every sector,' he said. 'We are trying our best to provide security to the people here including those working in horticulture.'