Kashmir’s first season fruit, cherry, is ripening. In fact, some varieties like “awwal number” are already ready for the harvest. Last time, the cherry farmers endured heavy losses due to a lack of transportation because of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown. Despite prospective bumper produce this season also, the farmers are staring at another “fruitless season.”
Horticulture plays an important role in Jammu and Kashmir’s economy. A large number of people are dependent directly or indirectly on it. Covid-19 has again brought about pain and anguish in all spheres of life. Poor farmers are no exception. The impact will be immediately felt by cherry growers as supply-chain distortion could hurt them badly.
As per figures cited by the growers, the cherry produce in Kashmir last year was about 12,000 metric tonnes. The growers as per them faced massive losses due to limited demand last year as Mumbai and other suitable markets for the delicate fruit remained out of bounds due to covid-19. The growers are looking for the government’s support and there is need to work out a mechanism in advance for ensuring speedy transportation of the horticultural produce especially cherry by way of various interventions.
Cherry canning units need to be made functional and raw cherry need to be exported to different mandies of the country.
Last year, the figures cited by the government and the growers regarding transportation varied a lot but farmers have high hope that there are no transportation related delays this year. The government should make arrangements to ensure the fruit reaches markets and the end consumer. The cherry growers do not have the luxury of cold storages and their yield would perish if it doesn’t sell in time. In fact, there should be a special arrangement in place to ensure that the produce that has less shelf life is consumed quickly. The growers need supply chain workable every time. The Valley for one reason or another has some sought of crisis—whether in terms of highway closure or some disturbances within. The successive governments despite assurances have failed to put in place cold storage which would have helped the growers to ward off the present crisis. It is better that alternative plans are set up and concretized well in time. In the first instance, efforts should be made to transport the fragile fruit. Otherwise, it will bring about a catastrophe in the lives of the poor orchardists who depend on returns to keep wheels of life going on. If they ever needed the government, it is now.