Sopore town in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district is called the apple town of Kashmir Valley. Around 40 per cent of the apple production and sale in Kashmir Valley is done through the Sopore Mandi (an open marketplace). And since horticulture contributes the most to the GDP of Jammu and Kashmir, Sopore plays a key role in this sector.
With a business of over 3000 crores annually, Sopore has been one of the key hubs for horticulture business in Kashmir Valley. And by September, the whole Kashmir Valley turns into an apple trading centre. The apples are harvested all across the Sopore town to be sent across India and other countries.
The fruit mandi of Sopore is Asia’s second-largest fruit mandi, and the biggest when it comes to apple trade. The Sopore mandi is connected with over 450 fruit mandis across India and all the fruit produce is sent directly to those mandis from here. Countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan are also directly supplied with apples from the Sopore mandi.
”Fruit mandi Sopore is Asia’s second-largest, This mandi was established in 1989 and it has been expanding since then. We do great business here and Kashmir’s economy depends on horticulture. 70 per cent of our population is dependent on horticulture. Around 7 lac families are involved in it. The trade increases with every year. Around 3000 crore business is done via Sopore mandi and it will increase every year. Nearly 450 fruit mandis get supplied directly from here across India. We have an American apple from North Kashmir which goes to Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, ” Zahoor Ahmad Tantray, General Secretary, Sopore Fruit Mandi told.
The biggest apple orchards in the Kashmir Valley are in Sopore town and many of the farmers are now turning their traditional apple farms into high-density apple farms. The Centre and the government of Jammu and Kashmir have been pushing the farmers to expand their orchards, and huge subsidies are being given to the farmers to do so. One of the apple farmers from Sopore, Waseem Hajini, is the owner of one of the biggest high-density apple orchards in the town. He says the future is with the high-density farms and more and more youth need to get involved in the business of apples in Sopore.
”I have been in the apple business for 6-7 years, we have had traditional apple trees for ages but in 2016 I uprooted the plants and installed the Italian high-density ones, It has been a great journey. Sopore is known as apple town and the total revenue from apple business from Sopore is around 6000 crores. The future is with high-density farming. There is a lot of support from the government also. The government is promoting apple farming and it’s a great deal for the unemployed youth. It is a good opportunity that the government is providing us and they should go for it. The new import policy will help the people of Kashmir, Himachal and Uttarakhand, ” said Wasim Hajini.
Sopore has around 61 villages and is also one of the oldest sub-divisions of Jammu and Kashmir. At the time of apple harvest, the fruit mandi of spore comes abuzz with thousands of buyers from across India. Around 400 trucks loaded with apples are sent across the country on a daily basis.