Ripening Doubts: Rumors Put a Chill on Kashmir’s Watermelon Sales

Ripening Doubts: Rumors Put a Chill on Kashmir's Watermelon Sales

Srinagar: Abdul Rashid Parray, 45, has been selling fruits on his cart for over 15 years. Every year he procures over a ton of watermelons from fruit mandi, Parimipora in Srinagar, which he then vends along the Srinagar-Baramulla highway. However, over the past two weeks, Parray has noticed a decrease in demand for the fruit.

“This is very unusual given the fact that people would consume watermelon during the Ramazan,” Parray, a resident of Parimpora told Kashmir Post.

Not just Parray, but nearly all fruit vendors across Srinagar city and other districts in the valley are expressing concerns. They attribute a decline in business to an ‘unverified’ claim by a doctor suggesting that watermelons are early-ripened fruits.

“We have been selling the watermelons for the past many years and would earn a good amount of money, but ever since rumors about watermelons being artificially ripenined has spread across, consumers are hesitant in buying the fruit,” said another vendor, Shakeel Ahmad.

We earlier reported that the Food Safety Drugs & Food Control Organization, Kashmir Division has directed the concerned officials to undertake rigorous market inspections of fresh fruits and vegetables and other food items along with the sampling.

The reports are expected to come on Saturday, an official said. Come summer, the people tend to favor watermelon to quench their thirst. It’s also a preferred choice during the month of Ramazan.

Last year, watermelon sales here reached unprecedented levels. During the month of Ramazan, the Kashmir valley alone saw daily watermelon sales totaling Rs 50 million.

Bashir Ahmad Basheer, President Fruit Mandi Parimpora Srinagar confirmed to us that the sales of the fruit has gone down to 50 percent and the traders and the vendors have suffered losses because of the rumors.

“But it’s up to the government to verify the claim and present the factual report before the people,” he said, adding, “Some government officials from the Food Safety Drugs & Food Control Organization took the samples of watermelon a few days ago and the report is awaited.”

Basheer said that they would sell tons of watermelon from March to July every year.

The watermelons are being supplied to the valley from different states of India especially from Karnataka, Bangalore, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. “It takes a lot of time and effort to bring the fruit here through trucks and anything negative regarding the fruit will hit the economy to many players,” Basheer said.

“However no one can compromise on health, the government should clear the air with its report.”

Yameen ul Nabi, Assistant Commissioner, Food Safety in Drug & Food Control Organization also said that he witnessed a decline in fruit consumption while inspecting the market. “In Nowhatta area of Srinagar city, out of 10 fruit vendors only one was selling watermelons,” Nabi said.

He said that the department has put out mobile-vans for on spot sampling and deep analyses of the fruit. He added that with cold stores and advanced technology all the fruits are available in the markets throughout the year and people need not to panic.

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