With unrest in the entire Valley since last over two months, the fruit exports from Kashmir valley are witnessing an upward swing this year because of the closure of local mandis and non-availability of cold storage facilities.

According to the officials of the Department of Horticulture (Planning and Marketing), the closure of the local mandis and cold storage facilities and non-availability of the labor has forced the fruit growers to harvest and rush their produce in bulk to the markets outside the State.

As per the data made available by the Horticulture Department, around 14000 truckloads carrying 156185 MTs of fresh and dry fruit have been exported from Kashmir valley between 1 September 2016 and 23 September 2016 against 5645 truckloads carrying 50140 MTs of fruit during the corresponding period of the last year. With around 50000 MTs of fruit dispatched to various mandis from Kashmir between 1 April 2016 and 31 August 2016, the cumulative exports of fruit till 23 September this year have touched around 205000 MTs.

“There is almost three-fold increase in fruit exports this September as compared to last year as almost all the major local mandis at Srinagar, Sopore, Baramulla, Shopian, Pulwama, Kulgam and Chrar-e-Sharief are closed because of the prevailing situation in Kashmir,” the Horticulture Department official said adding that the cold storage facilities in Kashmir, mostly located in Pulwama and Shopian, have also been closed because of the unrest.

“During normal times, the fruit growers used to dump their produce in the cold storage facilities locally and dispatch the same to the markets outside the State in a regulated manner as and when they expected to get good returns,” the official said adding that a major chunk of fruit also used to be marketed locally through vendors and other outlets. “Because of the easy connectivity through Mughal Road, the twin districts of Poonch and Rajouri had also come up as lucrative markets for Kashmiri fruit,” the official said.

According to the official as all the local marketing channels for the fruit have almost dried up because of the unrest, the growers are forced to rush their produce to the outside markets instead of allowing the same to rot in the orchards. The Narwal Fruit Mandi in Jammu is also seeing increased fruit arrivals from Kashmir this year.

He said the local fruit mandis used to be abuzz with not only the local traders, but with wholesalers and exporters from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta and Bangalore.  “But these mandis wear a deserted look these days owing to ongoing unrest,” he said adding that last year Kashmir fruit worth Rs 200 crore was exported to various countries including Bangladesh, Nepal etc.

Pertinently, the horticulture sector contributes around Rs 5000 crore to the State’s economy annually and despite massive increase in exports, the fruit growers and traders complain that the losses in the sector could be to the tune of around Rs 1000 crore because of the unrest as most of they were unable to sell most of the produce of pear, peach, grapes and early varieties of apple in July/August this year.