Srinagar, Jan 10: The current trends of apple produce in Kashmir require setting up of cold storage facilities with a capacity of around four lakh metric tonnes, stakeholders have revealed.Â
Zahoor Ahmad Tantary, General Secretary Fruit Mandi Sopore said that off late, apple growers have come to depend more and more on storage of their produce in cold storage facilities.
A MoU signed by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir with the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) provides for setting up of three cold storage clusters, one each in North Kashmir, South Kashmir and Kathua, at a cost of Rs 500 Crore.Â
"This is a very good step. During peak season, the mandis experience a huge rush of people trying to sell their produce. So now with the setting up of these facilities, instead of bringing the apples straight to the mandis from the orchards, the growers can keep their fruits in cold storage and sell their produce at a later date when the prices are better," Tantray said.Â
At present, there are around 38 cold storage facilities in Kashmir with a total capacity of 140000 metric tonnes, which is less than the requirement.Â
As per Manzoor Ahmad, Deputy Director Horticulture, the government is right now trying to retain the 'A' grade fruit, which comprises 28 to 30 percent of the total apple production.Â
"We are trying to retain this fruit in cold storage as its market value is quite high. Growers usually try to sell it directly in the market but when the National Highway gets closed due to bad weather, we retain this fruit and that way its value in the market only increases or remains stable," he said.Â
He added that right now only apples are being stored in these stores but eventually other fruits like pears would also be stored in these stores.Â
Ahmad also said that the cold storage units can be set up through private enterprise as well. "An entrepreneur submits his or her project which is then inspected and evaluated by a high empowerment committee. Government also provides a subsidy of around 30 to 35 percent on this," he said.Â
He said that the UT government is looking into increasing the subsidy to around 50 percent.
Ahmad said that one unit of cold storage takes at least two to three years to build at an estimated cost of around 35 to 55 crore rupees.Â
"It's the construction which takes time, otherwise there is no dearth of funds with the department."
He said Kashmir needs these cold storage clusters as our production is only increasing day by day.Â
However, according to Fayaz Ahmad, President Fruit Mandi Sopore, these stores are not beneficial to the small time farmers.Â
"What has a grower whose production doesn't go above 1000 to 1500 boxes of apples got to do with these cold storage facilities? These stores are meant for those orchardists whose produce runs into thousands of boxes," he said.Â
As far as building the storage clusters go, the Government is yet to elaborate on where exactly these facilities will come up in Jammu and Kashmir.Â