After taking the Middle East market by the storm last year, Kashmiri-grown apples this year could not make it to Gulf countries owing to the worldwide Coronavirus spread.
The UAE-based retail company ‘Lulu Group’ that was in the Valley last year had taken 200 tons of apples as “sample” to be tested in the Middle East markets before signing a deal with local growers here.
The Kashmiri grown apples had received massive response from the consumers in the Middle East countries like UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman as about 200 tons of fruit were sold within weeks after hitting the retail stores in the Middle East.
Lulu Group is the fastest retail chain in the Middle East and has several outlets across the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, and Yemen.
Keeping in view the demand for Kashmiri apples in Middle East markets, the company had ordered 500 more tons (25 containers) of apples from the local growers in the Valley.
However, owing to the spread of coronavirus, the export of apples to the Middle East has taken a major hit this season.
Director Horticulture, Kashmir, Aijaz Ahmad Bhat said that due to the virus, the Lulu Group, unlike last year, had not shown any interest to export the apples to the Middle East.
"Mumbai, which is the main port through which we export our goods, is currently the worst-affected city in India. So, keeping in view the circumstances, we haven't received any demand from the group (Lulu) this season," Bhat said.
However, he said that the government had urged the Government of India to extend the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS), under which the government procures the produce directly from the growers.
"The department has already recommended the extension of MIS for this year to the government. Both previous and the new LG has requested GoI to consider the proposal," he said.
Last year, the government had procured 15.9 thousand metric tonnes of apple at a total cost of Rs 70.52 crore under the MIS scheme.
The move had played an important role in stabilising prices and preventing distress sales.
Lulu Group had also shown interest in opening a procurement office in the Valley.