Un­der CRPF cover, Shopian sells ‘Kullu De­li­cious’ to govt agency

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times City - [email protected] times­group.com

Shopian/Anant­nag: Child­hood friends Bashir Ah­mad and Firoz Dar — own­ers of 4- and 13-acre ap­ple or­chards, re­spec­tively — have just un­loaded five hun­dred wooden boxes of a va­ri­ety pop­u­larly known as ‘Kullu De­li­cious’ at Shopian’s Aglar Mandi, jut­ting out from the iconic Mughal Road.

Two Na­tional Agri­cul­tural Co­op­er­a­tive Mar­ket­ing Fed­er­a­tion of In­dia (Nafed) em­ploy­ees, San­deep and Chan­dramo­han mon­i­tor the qual­ity of Ah­mad and Dar’s pro­duce and award their stock with ‘Cat­e­gory A’ that will fetch them Rs 60/kg. Ah­mad and Dar are over­joyed.

From weigh­ing to qual­ity ob­ser­va­tion, the time taken is 45 min­utes to one hour. And this hap­pens un­der the tight vigil of X95 and M16 gun-wield­ing CRPF troops. Two com­pa­nies of CRPF men with three bul­let­proof ve­hi­cles re­main on guard 24x7 at each ap­ple man­dis set up and man­aged by Nafed.

Both the friends are among the 812 reg­is­tered ap­ple grow­ers at the mandi in Shopian, the ter­ror-sav­aged district that alone con­trib­utes 40% (at 3.5 lakh MT) to Jammu & Kash­mir’s to­tal ap­ple pro­duc­tion of 12 lakh MT each year.

These or­chardists are di­vided over sell­ing their pro­duce to Nafed. Some be­lieve it’s a win­win sit­u­a­tion in qui­eter times since the nul­li­fi­ca­tion of Ar­ti­cle 370 on Au­gust 5 while oth­ers think it’s not worth risk­ing their lives in towns like Shopian, where 35 ter­ror­ists are on the prowl.

“If we sell the same ap­ple box in Delhi or send it to Ban­ga­lore, we will get Rs 900 apiece. Here we are get­ting Rs 1,050 for the same. So, why not sell it here to Nafed,” said Ah­mad, who comes from Shopian.

Nafed of­fi­cials are be­ing as­sisted by four agen­cies —Na­tional Hor­ti­cul­ture Board, Hor­ti­cul­ture Plan­ning and Mar­ket­ing, Hor­ti­cul­ture Pro­duce Cor­po­ra­tion and Hor­ti­cul­ture De­part­ment in the Val­ley. “We are proud that we have fi­nally ar­rived in the Val­ley. The num­ber of farm­ers (com­ing to sell their pro­duce) is grad­u­ally ris­ing even amid ten­sion,” said a Nafed­of­fi­cial.

Ap­ple grow­ers Firoz Ah­mad Dar and Bashir Ah­mad at the ap­ple mandi in Kash­mir’s Shopian district

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