‘Free trade pacts and GST chipping at markets for Kashmir horticulture produce’

  • Mukeet Akmali
  • Publish Date: Mar 25 2019 5:41AM
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  • Updated Date: Mar 25 2019 5:41AM
‘Free trade pacts and GST chipping at markets for Kashmir horticulture produce’File Photo

Chairman Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers and Dealers Union, Bashir Ahmad Basheer, keeps an eye on all aspects of the horticulture business.He believes this sector is passing through turbulent times. Here are excerpts from an interview Mukeet Akmali of Kashmir Ink did with the veteran

 

Kashmir Ink: You have been in the horticulture sector for decades. Can you tell us what the current scenario of fruit industry is in Kashmir?

 

Bashir Ahmad Basheer: Horticulture sector is passing through turbulent times due to a host of reasons. First, implementation of goods and services tax has impacted purchasing power of people across India. Second, due to the fact that Indian government has signed a number of free trade pacts with several countries means those countries now export their fruit produce without any additional taxes. It is eating away our market share in the country. At the same time we are yet to upgrade our technology which means we are producing and trading our fruits the same way we used to do hundreds of years ago, while as other parts of the world have gone way ahead of us. Therefore, it possesses a difficult challenge for us and I believe it is a challenge for survival.

KI: How do we overcome the challenge? 

 

BAB:  Yes the challenge is there, but I believe with a challenge there are opportunities too. But for that we have to gear up. We have to adopt new, latest scientific technology and high-density plantation. Apart from that our marketing should step up.

Recently government has introduced high-density fruit crop plantation. How successful has it been?

 

You can measure the success of these hybrid crops by the fact that out of scores of high density crops, only one Bulgaria breed of apple crop was successful. Rest of the so-called high-density fruit plantation had to be thrown out of the orchards. Whatever intervention government brings, fruit growers have to be part of it. Be it policymaking or field intervention. But unfortunately here, departments do it in isolation that fails to have an impact.

KI: The government has constituted a committee to draft a horticulture policy. Can tell us about it?

 

BAB: Unfortunately, government has constituted a committee, but we (fruit growers and dealers) are not part of it. It shows how serious the government is towards welfare of the fruit growers’ community. And I fail to understand when those for whom the policy is being drafted are not part of the committee how could it derive any positive results?

 

KI: There has been lot of talk about CA stores and government schemes associated with it. Have the CA stores benefitted the fruit industry?

 

BAB: We have CA stores with capacity to store only 5 percent of the total produce of apple, leave aside other crops. It shows how much we are lagging behind. All Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers and Dealers Union is working on establishing a 5000 metric ton CA store at Parimpora mandi. Similarly, we are hoping that government would introduce a cooperative scheme for fruit growers where in the shape of cooperative society they would establish cold storage. Otherwise, currently CA stores are owned by businessmen who have sole purpose of plain profiting, but we fruit growers are more concerned about the fruit industry.

 

KI: Of late, there have been a lot of complaints of spurious or misbranded pesticides, fungicides being pumped into market. Has the practice now stopped?

 

BAB: No, it is still prevalent. In fact the immediate threat to our fruit industry is of these spurious chemicals. Besides, there is no monitoring by the horticulture department, which means growers are, more vulnerable. Prices of pesticides have too gone up manifold, which has increased our input costs thus burdening fruit industry. We have suggested to the government to ensure a pricing mechanism and quality control for pesticides. But our pleas have met a cold response despite the fact that horticulture sector alone contributes Rs 7000 crore to the state’s economy annually.

 

KI: What advice would you have for youngsters who want to venture into horticulture sector?

 

BAB: Horticulture is the lifeline of our economy. It is the only sector that has sustained us and will continue to do so. Therefore, it has huge potential where a youngster cannot only provide employment to himself but will provide jobs to others too.