Srinagar, October 19 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, apple growers were expecting a bumper crop this year but now they say losses are in millions of dollars and the business might suffer its worst year.

The apple growers call it a “silent war declared on their stomachs”.

“That’s almost $1,200 worth of produce. It’s all a waste now,” said apple farmer Mohammad Shafi, pointing to a heap of rotten apples thrown into a pit in Wuyan, a small village in east of Srinagar.

The worst-hit region is southern Kashmir, where dense apple orchards stretch through hundreds of villages. Shafi’s orchard in Wuyan usually produces almost 10,000 boxes of apples per year. He says he’s only sold 1,000 boxes this year. Half of the rest of the harvest had to be thrown out because the apples were bruised from falling off the trees, he said.

Growers like Shafi often rely on loans to pay for labor, fertilizer and other costs. “A few days ago, a friend came to me asking for the repayment of loans. I wept and begged in front of him as I have no money to give back to him,” Shafi said.

One young apple picker, who asked not to be named out of fear of reprisal from the occupation authorities, said he preferred to be hungry rather than trapped in an army camp.

The army has denied arrests and torture. But rumors of such tactics have alarmed those who usually would be working in the orchards. So have the shootings.

Many farmers told media that such threats were keeping them away from the orchards. Some working in the industry said that they preferred to let the apples rot to foil Indian efforts to show the situation had returned to normal.

Meanwhile, the traders are facing shortage of trucks due to continued siege with the result truckers from outside the Kashmir Valley are demanding more money for transportation of apple outside Kashmir.

The president of the Fruit Growers and Dealers Association, Mohammad Amin, in an interview said that with recent police advisory, the outside truckers fear to go to interiors to load the apples. “This has led to the increase in the freight. We were already paying Rs 60-70 more than the normal rate per box and for last few days we are paying Rs 10 more,” he added.

He said that besides this, the disruption in the movement of traffic on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway was also causing shortages of trucks in the Valley.


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