Cherry harvesting is about to start in the Valley, but despite a good crop, the growers of the perishable fruit are a worried lot. While they are expecting 13,000 metric tonnes (MTS) yield, growers fear they may not be able to export the fruit or find buyers outside due to the shut mandis/markets owing to the lockdown.
Bashir Ahmad Basheer, Chairman of the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers-Cum-Dealers Union, said 60% of the cherry produce was exported to Mumbai in the past years.
“Sixty% produce, mainly Makhmali and Mishri varieties of cherry, used to be transported to Mumbai through air cargo or by railway, 20% was transported to mandis in Delhi and other places and 10% to Punjab. Unfortunately, Mumbai fruit mandi is not properly functional and we don’t expect to send 60% produce there as it has been hit hard by the coronavirus,” Basheer said.
He said transporting the entire produce to New Delhi was not advisable either, as it would not fetch good prices. Even as the growers association is holding deliberations with the authorities, to work out ways to avoid losses, Basheer said they had urged the government to fix Rs 100 as MSP per kilo for cherry.
Businessman Showkat Chowdhary, who is also a cherry grower, said harvesting would commence in a week’s time. “Since cherry is a perishable fruit, it is just a game of one month. The government should arrange airlifting of the fruit in cargo planes,” he said.
They were willing to bear the one-way cost to airlift cherries to New Delhi and Mumbai, Chowdhary said.
An official of the Horticulture Department said deliberations were underway to ensure smooth movement of cherry exports.