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 24×7 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 Departmentin 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 Nafed official.

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