SRINAGAR: In a bid to reduce post-harvest losses by increasing the shelf life of various agriculture and horticulture products besides addressing the issue of distress sale of crops by the farmers, the government has encouraged and aided private players to set up cold storage (CA) facilities, a spokesman of the government said in Jammu.
During the last two years, an enabling environment has been created for transforming Jammu and Kashmir’s agriculture and allied sectors to increase the income of farmers, ensure food security and speed up economic growth. The government has taken several concrete steps for increasing the Agriculture and Horticulture production besides enhancing the quality of crops while laying special focus on post-harvesting management infrastructure, especially in the private sector.
Apples kept in cold storages in Kashmir help farmers to fetch much better rates by selling their production as per their will according to demand.
A senior horticulture officer, while elaborating on the initiative, informed that a 10-kilogram box of stored apple has been sold at a minimum of Rs 1,000 and at Rs 1,800 as the highest price depending on the quality and colour of the apple. These rates, according to apple growers and traders, are comparatively much higher than the rates apples get in harvesting season.
The cold storages based at Lassipora Pulwama, Aglar Shopian and a few areas in north Kashmir have the capacity to store about 2.5 lakh metric tonnes of apple.
The officer said that the government aided cold stores would help in fetching higher rates to the A-grade apples in Kashmir which amount to around 8 lakh metric tonnes. Earlier, these apples used to be sold at less than their actual value due to the inadequate availability of CA stores. These cold stores are much needed to cater to the high-density A-Grade apple production.
Director-General Horticulture, Kashmir, Aijaz Ahmed Bhat, said that the department is committed to strengthening the post-harvest infrastructure in the valley. We are exploring every possible opportunity to have infrastructure like CA stores, Processing Units and related utilities are developed across the Valley and the best services are provided to the orchardists, he added.
At present, we are encouraging new entrepreneurs to set up CA storage capacity with government support to cater to the annual production which otherwise would result in distress sales, he said.
DG further said that improved post-harvest infrastructure like CA stores will help in keeping the Kashmiri apple in the market round the year and farmers will get good returns for their produce.
As per available data, Kashmir produces 20 lakh metric tonnes of apples annually. To ensure that farmers of Kashmir get better rates for their products and are not compelled to sell their produce at a relatively lower price due to fear of the fruit getting perished, the Lieutenant Governor administration is working tirelessly to facilitate farmers with subsidies, technology, machinery and post-harvest setup. The Horticulture department helps entrepreneurs, interested in setting up CA stores, with a 50% subsidy.
The CA storage system ensures an optimum supply of oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen besides humidity and temperature to preserve edible items for longer periods of time.
During the past few years, the government is focusing on effective Post Harvest Management of fruits. “Special efforts are being initiated by the department of Horticulture towards the establishment of CA store, Food Processing Units, Grading lines and Purchase of Refrigerated Vans.
Director-General Horticulture said these efforts have resulted in 700% increase in CA storage capacity from 25000 MT in 2015-16 to 2.00 Lakh MT in 2021-22, which is expected to be further increased by 25000 MT in the next year.
The establishment of CA stores has resulted in a significant reduction of distress sales resulting in higher returns for the orchardists. There are 40 CA stores across Jammu and Kashmir with Industrial Growth Centre (IGC) in the Lassipora area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama alone having as many as 23 CA stores. Besides, there are 17 stores functioning in different districts including Shopian, Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla and Jammu.
Ali Muhammad Bhat, a farmer, says that setting up of cold storage system is not benefitting the growers only but the consumers too. “The local consumer pays higher rates for the purchase of apples imported from other countries like the US and New Zealand but with cold storage facility he can buy local apples for a reasonable price during any time of the year,” Ashraf claimed.
The recent visit of CEOs from several Gulf countries to Kashmir to explore the investment opportunities here will also help in creating Post-harvest infrastructure in J&K.
“In the past two years, a significant change is being witnessed in Jammu and Kashmir especially if I talk about the investment, industry and business,” Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha, said. “We discussed several areas and issues. We have identified their (CEOs’) concerns and assured them of their redressal in a minimum time period, especially in the Health and Medical Education, Real Estate, Hospitality, Food processing, Cold storage and cold chain and education”, he asserted.
Sinha said the government is hopeful to bring an investment of over Rs 70,000 crore in the next six months. “Last year, we had the total outside investment of Rs 15000 crore. By now, we have cleared investment proposals of around Rs 27000 crore,” he added while asserting that “We hope that in next six months, it will cross Rs 70,000 crore”. Sinha said that when the investments take place on the ground, it would generate a minimum of six to seven lakh jobs in Jammu and Kashmir.
People associated with the apple industry say that introduction of cold storage has revolutionized the industry besides providing jobs to hundreds of labourers.
Kashmir on average produces over 20 lakh metric tonnes of apple every year and it is expected that it will jump over to 25 lakh metric tonne production in the next few years. The 2017 economic survey in J&K said that half of Kashmir’s population is directly or indirectly dependent on the apple industry and over 3.5 lakh hectares are under apple cultivation.