Tarun Upadhyay | Jul 23, 2019 | 6 min read
Kashmir clampdown: Jammu traders staring at Rs 700 crore loss, apple trading worst hit
Traders in Jammu are staring at a Rs 700 crore loss this
year due to uncertain conditions in the Kashmir Valley where shops have remained
shut for over one-and-a-half months following a clampdown by the authorities
and threats to fruit growers by terrorists.
The economies of Jammu and Kashmir regions are intrinsically linked. Traders in Jammu are heavily dependent on Kashmir for supplies and procurement. Many believe the scale of trading is tilted in favour of the Jammu region.
Since August 5, when Article 370 was revoked, traders in Warehouse Mandi in Jammu city, have been badly hit economically.
"We are staring at a trading loss of about Rs 400-Rs 450 crores by conservative estimates. Our supplies are down to less than 50%. Traders haven't been able to receive payments of about Rs 250 crore for the supplies made," Deepak Kumar, general secretary, Warehouse Traders Federation, told 101 Reporters.
The mandi, which houses some of the biggest traders of the state, is the biggest supplier of essential commodities to the entire state, including Kashmir.
Deepak points out that the daily supply from Jammu to Kashmir was about Rs 50 crore but it has now halved to Rs 20-25 crore since August 5. Earlier, about 50 trucks would leave the mandi for the Valley daily but now the figure is down to 20 trucks.
Traders say they haven’t received payments since August 5. Since they took credit from banks, the interest is putting an additional burden.
Rs 200 crore loss in fruit market
Narwal Fruit Mandi is the biggest one in the state. Bulk of the fruit from Kashmir reaches here which is then supplied to the neighbouring states.
The bulk of the trade, about 60 percent, is done during the ongoing August to October season. This peak season is dominated by apples.
"We fear a loss of about Rs 200 crore as the supply of apples is down to 10%. We had made advancement payment. 50% of the payments are made by availing credit limits from banks. Supplies are not coming, our payments are stuck and the interest rate is ticking. It's loss everywhere and in every sense," said Parveen Gupta, president of the Narwal Mandi.
Traders in this market say the season of pear, which is worth about Rs 5 crore, is almost washed out as very less quantity reached the mandi. Last month, there were rumours in Kashmir that the Jammu mandi is closed and so growers sent the produce to Delhi directly at Rs 400-Rs 450 per box which in Jammu last year was worth about Rs 600-Rs 750.
In this peak season, normally about 500 trucks would arrive daily but now only 20-25 trucks are coming. Truckers in the fruit mandi say while normally it would take a day to load the truck it's taking 4-5 days due to unavailability of labour and terrorist threat to growers.
"Growers asks us to make our own arrangements for loading trucks. Sometimes, due to terrorist threat, they load in the morning while sometimes we are asked to do it in the evening. It's difficult situation out there and we are at loss," said Happy Singh, one of the truckers.
About 1,000 truckers and more than 3,000 labourers are facing a loss of work in the mandi even during this peak season. "We are waiting for loading our trucks. Apples are not coming," rued Bikram Singh, a truck driver from Jammu.
Some truckers coming from Kashmir complain that stones were pelted on them by miscreants after which they have to think twice before visiting Kashmir.
Kashmir has the second largest area under apple production in the world. It produces 75% of the total apple production in India. The annual production is 20 lakh MT which is worth about Rs 8,000 crore. 7 lakh farmers, which translates to 35 lakh people by including their families, are directly involved in the apple crop. This is about 50% of total Kashmir population.
Recently, a delegation of Jammu traders called on finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman to apprise her of the trade loss and about direct procurement of apples by The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED). They say if NAFED makes procurement what will happen to their advance payments.
"We apprised the finance minister of our concern. We are facing huge losses which run into crores of rupees. NAFED procurement, guaranteed return product for which advancement payments have been made and interest on bank credit limit were main sticking points. She has assured us to address them and we are only hoping," said Neera Anand, president Jammu Chamber of Traders Federation.
Embroidered suits and shawls of Kashmir, along with other handicraft items have a huge demand in the Jammu region, especially from tourists and Vaishno Devi pilgrims. Their supply is also hit as labourers, particularly from Bihar and other states, working on embroidery machines have left Kashmir following the clampdown.
"It is not only the supply which has nosedived, but there is also no demand too. After Aug 5, tourists are not coming. The festive season is coming but we don't have much hope. Business is anything but normal for the last two months," lamented KK Dhar, a businessman in the famous Raghunath Bazaar, dealing in Kashmiri handicrafts.
Tankers and trucks business reflect the sentiment
With public transport still off the roads and schools and business establishments continuing to remain shut, petrol and diesel consumption has also come down drastically.
About 1,800 tankers are associated with different oil companies who carry petrol and diesel from Jammu to Kashmir. On average, 400-500 tankers used to make trips between Jammu and Kashmir but now about 80% of them are off the roads.
"Petrol pumps are open only for a few hours. They are scared after one petrol pump was set on fire by terrorists. There is no demand for oil and it has hit us hard. Our constant costs like salaries of the drivers and insurance premium of vehicles are ticking. We are running in a huge loss and don't know how things will unfold," said Anand Sharma, president of J&K Petroleum and Tanker Association.
Supplies made on trucks is down by 80%. Earlier, about 2,000 trucks carrying essential supplies, fertilisers, cement and other products would make daily trips to Kashmir. Now, not more than 300 trucks are making daily trips.
"Most of the truck owners have shifted business outside the state. The trucks are now plying on other national routes. There is no business left. How can we survive with just 20% business," said Manmohan Singh Khalsa, president of J&K Truck Union which has a membership of 2,000 truck owners.
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