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Bittersweet harvest in Kashmir

Nissar Ahmad | Updated on November 06, 2020

Apples and walnuts, two of Kashmir Valley’s most famous exports, are struggling to make their way to markets

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness — John Keats’s description of an English autumn holds good for the season in Kashmir too. Just as the Valley’s chinar trees don the hues of fall, its orchards come alive with apple picking. It’s the busiest period of the year for orchardists across the Valley. They hire migrant labourers to pluck apples from the trees, sort and pack the produce in boxes and wooden cartons, and then transport them to nodal wholesale markets. Beginning September till November, the orchards of Kashmir supply apples to mandis across India. Trucks roll into the Union Territory from states as far as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The vehicles leave the Valley with several varieties of apple. The four most prominent ones are ‘delicious’, ‘ambri’, ‘chamura’ and ‘maharaji’.

However, the revocation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, and the resultant shutdown of Kashmir crippled this supply-and-distribution chain last year.

The year 2020, too, has been harsh on Kashmir.

The all-India lockdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic imposed a set of new guidelines and restrictions regarding interstate movements. This spelled doom for the traders, who haven’t stopped counting the losses from last year.

The impact of the lockdown is also a concern for Kashmir’s walnut growers. The Kashmiri walnut has a huge market even outside India. The superfood is exported to more than 20 countries. Workers remove a green covering by hand before the walnut is dried in the sun.

Text and photos by Nissar Ahmad

Published on November 06, 2020

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