Industries Chips In To Improve Viability of Kashmir’s Controlled Atmosphere Storage Chain

by Tahir Bhat

SRINAGAR: The industries department has fast-forwarded the process of incentivizing the operations of the controlled atmosphere storage chain in Jammu and Kashmir. They are likely to get some help from the industries ministry and the food processing ministry, which the local industry department will dovetail to manage better benefits for the chain, official sources said.

Kashmir produces almost six varieties of cherry. Recently even the high density was introduced. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

“The two ministries have a number of incentives for the low-cost storage systems and both the ministries have agreed to extend the schemes to Jammu and Kashmir,” Mehmood Ahmad, Director Industries Kashmir said. “Once it is rolled out, it will offer the units on the ground at least three per cent of interest subvention, insurance for five years and full funding for having testing laboratories and DG sets.”

Ahmad has had a detailed meeting with the CAS promoters recently in which various facets of their operations were discussed. “The whole idea is to increase their viability,” Ahmad said.

The CAS chain is playing a key role in managing agriculture produce better. They retained almost 125 thousand tones of the best apple from the 2019 harvest. Though it did not yield the best dividends because of the lockdown triggered by the Covid-19, the facilities have reduced the exploitation and panic selling by the growers, over the years.

Currently, Ahmad said Kashmir alone has 31 CAS stores with a cumulative capacity of 155 thousand tones. These have emerged with an investment of around Rs 1000 crore. “Ten more are coming up because the market requires the facilities.”

Director Industries, Mehmood Ahmad in a meeting with the promoters of Controlled Atmosphere Storage units in Srinagar in June 2020. Image: Special Arrangement

After the CAS promoters, somehow, managed the apple load, some of them have started strong the cherry, one of the crops that actually lacks a shelf life. “We produce not more than 11000 metric tons of cheery a season,” Ahmad said. “Two stores have agreed and started storing 200 tons for some time until the market situation improves.”

Right now, the market situation is such that most of the growers are finding it difficult to send the cherry to the traditional markets in Mumbai and Gujarat. Though the railways had offered them transportation facility, the growers said they cannot manage to get the crop to Punjab wherefrom the facility is being offered. Loss of purchasing capacity across India – especially in Kashmir, is adding another major crisis for the cherry to be properly marketed. This has necessitated keeping part of the produce in CAS so that it can be marketed with a bit of delay.

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