As Jammu and Kashmir is under heavy security restrictions, Modi government has assured people of the state that the apple produced in the Kashmir Valley will be bought and right prices will be paid.
The Government of India has announced procurement of apples produced in Jammu and Kashmir during the current season of 2019, and National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) will complete the entire process of procurement through designated State Government Agencies by December 15.
But the fact remains that NAFED has not bought a single kilogram of apples for the last 30 years.
A report in The Indian Express quoted an official from NAFED as saying, “We did not have to, as this trade was always in private hands and the government didn’t think it necessary for us to intervene."
NAFED procures oilseeds, pulses, copra, onion and cotton to deliver the minimum support price declared by the Central government to farmers.
But this time NAFED has been asked to purchase all the apples that growers bring to sell at mandis in Jammu and Kashmir. There would hardly be any private buyers with all the current restrictions on movement. This makes NAFED task all the more challenging, reported The Indian Express
Apple is a crucial part of Jammu and Kashmir’s economy with a production of worth ₹8000 crore
Jammu & Kashmir accounts for about 18 lakh tonnes (lt) out of India’s total annual apple production of 23-24 lt, which also includes 4.5-5 lt from Himachal Pradesh and 50,000-60,000 tonnes from Uttarakhand. This year, the country’s output is projected to touch 26 lt due to good snowfall.
“We have been told to buy whatever is offered to us, though the indicative target is to procure 12 lt from the Valley. There is no MSP for apple. The state government will fix the procurement prices for different grades (A, B and C) and varieties. It is expected that we will pay 5 per cent more than the market price prevailing last year. The total cost of procurement operations is tentatively assessed at ₹5,000 crore,” the NAFED official told The Indian Express.
“The purchases will start from September 12 at four mandis — Shopian, Sopore, Parimpora (Srinagar) and Batango (Anantnag) — and we would add more centres as arrivals pick up,” the official said.
The real challenge for NAFED lies in the very short preparation time. “We opened our office in Srinagar only late last week, while the order for procurement under the Centre’s market intervention scheme came to us at 1:30 am on Tuesday. It leaves us with hardly any time to undertake registration of growers, collecting their Aadhaar and bank account details for making direct benefit transfer payment. Ideally, this process should have happened at the time of flowering, but that option simply does not exist now,” the official said as reported by Indian Express.
NAFED has been asked to complete the entire procurement operation by mid-December. Payment to growers’ accounts is also supposed to take place within 48 hours of procurement.