Kashmir’s Apple At the Heart Of Political Battle After Highway Closure Causes Rs 500 Cr Loss

Photo credit: Hindustan Times.

Most of the apples are exported to other states including the Azadpur market in Delhi. However, halting trucks during peak harvesting season has dealt a big blow to the industry. Growers and political parties see a conspiracy angle into sudden highway closure.


SRINAGAR—Sweet apple is at the heart of the political battle after thousands of trucks were left stranded on the Srinagar-Jammu highway causing a Rs 500 crore loss to the farmers.

Thousands of trucks laden with fresh apples were stranded after authorities closed Jammu-Srinagar national highway for traffic due to repairs and maintenance.

President of Buyers association, Fruit Mandi, Sopore, Mudasir Ahmed Bhat said that the halting of trucks caused a loss of Rs 500 crore to the growers, buyers, and dealers in September.

Horticulture is the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy with seven lakh families directly and indirectly associated with the sector. 

Horticulture contributes eight percent to the Gross State Domestic Product of Jammu and Kashmir.  More than 3.38 lakh hectares of land are under fruit cultivation in the valley. Of which 1.62 lakh hectares are under apple cultivation.

Most of the apples are exported to other states including the Azadpur market in Delhi. However, halting trucks during peak harvesting season has dealt a big blow to the industry. Growers and political parties see a conspiracy angle into sudden highway closure.

Leading the chorus is former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. She threatened to block the national highway in Kashmir if the issue is not resolved

“Kashmir has been turned into a jail, and they (Centre) are saying everything is fine. Lakhs of people are associated with the fruit trade, and they are now crying because they have taken bank loans, from traders in Delhi, who was going to compensate these growers,” she said addressing people in Shopian.

Mehbooba questioned the government’s motives for stopping the trucks in peak season. “For convoys, you can open highways. For the Amarnath Yatra, people were not allowed to move out of their houses. For us, three months of fruit season are vital, and we won’t allow anybody to play with our fruit trade,” she said.

People’s Conference led by Sajad Lone blamed black sheep within the government for the chaos.

“The devastation inflicted upon the fruit growers appears to be a ploy by internal saboteurs within government to instigate the farmers of Kashmir,” said Peoples Conference general secretary Imran Reza Ansari.

Apni party president Altaf Bukhari urged the Centre to stop untaxed apples coming from Iran to the Indian markets. “The livelihood of entire Kashmir is dependent on the fruit so this issue should be given priority,” he said, adding that only tourism isn’t the industry. “Fruit is also our big trade,” he said.

 Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Pandurang K Pole said 46000 trucks and trailers have moved from Qazigund towards Jammu of which 29000 are Apple trucks in alternate day convoys from Sep 1 to Sep 25. While 3995 Apple trucks moved towards Jammu on Sunday only.

Divisional Commissioner asserted that normally apple production in Kashmir is 17 metric tons but due to abundant rainfall, there has been a bumper crop and it will cross 21 metric tonnes this time.

Pole said that the claim made by certain fruit growers’ associations on the halting of fruit trucks is a half-truth. He said natural reasons are hindering traffic.

He said that we have difficulties in the movement of traffic on the highway due to rains and resultant shooting stones but it is beyond human control.

He appealed to them to use alternate Mughal Road to lessen the burden on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.

It was informed that almost 1500 trucks got stuck between Ramban and Ramsoo as traffic could not move ahead of Ramban with the flow because of intermittent shooting stones at Mehar causing regular stoppages.

Moreover, Divisional Commissioner informed that today at noon Chief Secretary had taken a review meeting which was attended by DGP and all officers of traffic departments.

He informed that the administration is making all efforts while he also appeals to use Mughal Road, at least for empty vehicles.

At present around 4000 trucks loaded with fresh, perishable fruits are stranded in the Jammu region, he stated.

It is further informed that the trucks are being cleared now and passenger vehicles could only be released from Jammu and Srinagar. The congestion due to halted trucks has been cleared at the earliest.

It is pertinent to mention that the capacity of NH for one-way HMV movement is just about 3000 to 3500 if there is no disruption in traffic due to landslides, shooting stones, and breakdown of loaded trucks. Anything above the capacity disturbs the whole cycle of the up and down release of traffic and this may result in piling up of traffic on NH.

Meanwhile, it was also informed that the production of fresh fruit during 2022-23 is estimated to be 2123047 MTs as compared to 1981610 MTs in 2021-22 while the production of dry fruit during 2022-23 is estimated at 206118 MTs as compared to 192497 MTs last year.


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