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Kashmir needs more cold storage units for boosting fruit industry

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By Er. Ishfaq Khaliq

A cold storage is a commercial facility for storing perishable products such as fruits, vegetables, meat, fish etc. under controlled conditions for longer periods. Based on the storage conditions, cold storages may be classified into three categories:

  1. i) Short-term or temporary storage
  2. ii) Long-term storage, and

iii) Frozen storage

For short- and long-term storage, the product is cooled and stored at a temperature that is slightly above the freezing point. Depending upon the product, the storage temperature varies and in general, it may lie anywhere between – 2oC to 16oC. Short-term or temporary storage is usually associated with retail establishments such as supermarkets, where rapid turnover of the product is normally expected. Depending upon the product the storage period may vary from 1 to 15 days. Long-term storage is usually associated with large-scale cold storages. The storage period again depends upon the type of product and also the condition of the product at which it is brought in to the cold storage. This period may be as short as 7 to 10 days for sensitive products such as ripe tomatoes and as long as 6 to 8 months for products such as apples, onions and potatoes.

Using frozen storage, most of the food products can be stored for considerably longer periods, sometimes as high as a few years. However, certain fresh products such as apples, tomatoes cannot be stored under frozen conditions. The storage temperatures for frozen foods typically lie between –23oC to –12oC, with –18oC being the most frequently employed storage temperature.

For apple storage, the temperature is maintained between 0.0 degree to 2.0 degrees.

In Kashmir the main stored product is apple. It is stored usually for 6- 8 months but only here refrigeration doesn’t take its part to control the quality of the fruit for such a long duration but actually, controlled atmosphere technology is used to preserve the fruit for such long duration. For this technique, the carbon dioxide scrubbers scrub out the additional co2 from the room while nitrogen generators are used which blow the nitrogen in the room to deplete the oxygen levels in the room. To maintain carbon dioxide and oxygen such techniques are used.

In Kashmir, during the peak season of apples or other fruits, the demand in the market gets very low and growers usually don’t get the best prices for their hard work. Also, the growers are often busy in the process of apple collection and cold storage units can come in handy for them in such scenarios as the growers get extra time to pack and send their fruit easily to the market.

By providing cold storage facilities, the fruit can be retained for 6-8 months and will restrict its export in one go. At a later stage, fruit can be dispatched to different Mandis of the country as per the demand enabling the growers to realize the best remuneration prices.

Adequate cold storing units of horticulture products, especially the Kashmiri apple, is a pre-requisite for the horticulture department. We have are the largest apple-producing place in the country and Kashmiri apple is supplied to all big markets in different parts of the country as well as outside, the supply needs to be regulated in the same manner.

Fruit growers and fruit merchants release their quota on some important occasions- like festivals- with an eye to make larger profits and larger sales. The existence of cold stores within and outside the state is a must. This is the only way the life of any fruit can be extended and it can be available at any time of the year. Govt is concerned about the adequate number of cold storage units in J&K as the total requirement is about 3.85 LMTS but it has only 0.65 LMTS under the private sector. This is a huge deficit gap and needs to be fulfilled as soon as possible.

The government will have to improve the cold storage facilities in J&K and outside like Kolkata, Delhi as well. It will be a good suggestion if govt selects more cold storage units to address the demand of farmers the storage units should be sanctioned in Kashmir and outside where Kashmir horticulture product is in great demand in order to fairly widen the scope of making horticulture- a source of strengthening economy. Also, the cold storage industry is providing jobs to lakhs of people across India and Kashmir as well. If adequate cold storage units are set up across J&K the employment can have a good boost.

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