Apple traders worry about advance paid to J&K growers

Apple traders in the Delhi and Jammu wholesale markets are concerned about the return of the advance payments they made to growers in Jammu and Kashmir, as supplies are negligible from the region despite this being the harvesting season in Kashmir.

The central government has asked the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) to procure apples, in the wake of terrorists threatening growers not to sell their produce in the market. Traders, who make advance payments against the crop, fear this could affect supplies to them.

More than 350 traders from Delhi, who supply the fruit across the country, had given more than ₹1,200 crore to apple growers in the valley, said traders. Some 125 traders in the Jammu mandi have provided another ₹250 crore.

“It’s been an old practice of traders to provide advance financial assistance to growers before the onset of the season,” said Mehta Ram Kriplani, the president of Delhi’s Azadpur Chamber of Fruits and Vegetables Association. “The money is used by growers to procure pesticide, fertilisers, packing material and hiring labour for working in the orchard.”

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Kashmir accounts for 70 per cent of India’s apple production. Traders estimate the region’s annual business with Delhi traders at ₹3,000 crore. Traders in Delhi said consignment were negligible from the region in recent days. The centre has allocated ₹2,000 crore to Nafed to enable it to procure 60 per cent of the apples produced in Jammu and Kashmir directly from growers this season.

“It’s a grim situation for apple traders. If Nafed procures apple from growers directly, how will we get our advance money paid to the farmer? We are answerable to banks from where we took loans to make payments to farmers,” said Praveen Gupta, president, Jammu Fruit Association.

“There is a 90 per cent fall in arrival of apples from the Kashmir valley to the Jammu mandi, compare to the previous year in the same period,” said Gupta.