Dr. Syed Owais Feroz, who is cultivating apple, set up a grading plant, increased income and showed way to others
Dr. Syed Owais's orchard of about 6 kanals produces 1000 apple boxes every season.
After doing MBBS and then Masters in Orthopaedics, even though it is his profession to treat sick people, but being the son of a farmer, farming is in his blood. He has a passion for not only looking after the apple orchard, but also adopting new ways of selling and branding the apples grown in it. Dr. Syed Owais Feroz, a person who likes to make progress in taking care of health of people along with the business of apples. The far-sighted Syed Owais may be 32 years old but his knowledge of apples is no less than that of an experienced planter.
Three years ago, when Dr. Syed Owais of Kashmir had set up a modern apple grading packing plant, no one even thought to do so within a radius of 20-25 kms. On the contrary, many people had advised Syed Owais not to do so, arguing for the risk in it.
Took the risk to progress
Dr. Syed Owais of Pachar village in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir says:
“Then some people used to call this plan in front of me and some behind my back as foolishness, but seeing the success after I started, in two and a half years only 15-20 such plants have been set up around the present date.”
While Syed Owais, who was a student of science, acquired a lot of knowledge due to his studies, while traveling in different parts of the country, the hobby of going to conferences, exhibitions and mandis related to farming, developed his understanding in such a way that today he has become an expert in apple in a way. This was the reason why this middle class planter spent Rs 50 lakh to buy a modern plant. Therefore, Ejaz Bhat, director of the Horticulture Department of Jammu and Kashmir, himself came to encourage Syed Owais and inaugurate the plant, becoming an example for many in his area. This is in 2021. Dr. Owais was then 28 years old. Walid’s shadow was gone and being the eldest son of the house in his generation, the responsibility of the house also came to him. In such a situation, he not only handled everything, but also took the work to next level.
New thinking changed the situation
Popular saying – ‘Necessity is the mother of all inventions’ fits behind this plan of Dr. Syed Owais Feroz, through which he not only increased his business but also helped to increase the income of many people associated with apple business and horticulture. Also, due to this, 35 people have been hired in their plant. Syed Owais says that during his grandfather’s time, when boxes filled with apples from his orchard used to reach many mandis, including Delhi, many times his grandfather would deny the fact that he belonged to those boxes. The reason was that by the time the freshly picked splendid apples were loaded into trucks and reached Delhi or a distant market, it would be a long time. The packing on it was also not going to protect the apple completely. In such a condition, a lot of apples used to get spoiled. Even today most of the farmers of Kashmir are following the same path. If there is a slight difference, then some orchardists have started filling apples in cardboard boxes for packing. But Dr. Syed Owais thought of changing the situation completely.
Dr. Syed Owais’s orchard of about 6 kanals produces 1000 apple boxes every season. In 2021, he installed a grading plant that automatically sorts apples according to their size after washing, brushing and drying. A box consists of a layer of apples of the same size and between each layer is a soft tray made of recycled paper or pulp. In this way, not only is the apple clean and shiny, but it can also be safely packed and transported easily from one place to another. While doing this type of packing, there is no need to follow the process of ‘scissors’ to cut the big stalk of the apple. Therefore, time is saved, due to the long stalk, the apple does not spoil quickly and its quality remains for a long time. Therefore, the merchants also take the cost of such packaged apples and pay more. Such plants, called ‘grading lines’, are usually kept in controlled atmosphere stores, also known as CA stores or cold stores. Syed Owais is the first farmer in this area to think of setting up a separate CA Store grading process.
Everyone benefits from changes in packing
Not only this, Dr. Syed Owais has shifted from the traditional 18-20 kg apple packing to 10 kg packing. In this season they are also going to start packing 5 kg. They say that packing with less weight is safer. There is only one or two layers of fruit in it, so the customer/consumer can also easily test it while buying. That is, the scope of deception ends. Even though packing through grading line is costlier by about Rs. 100 per box as compared to packing through labour in traditional way, but it saves time. More fresh fruits reach the market or the merchant/consumer. Due to good quality, 15 to 20 percent more price is paid. By the way, the owners of apple orchards are now slowly moving from grading line to packing.
Young farmer’s new plan
Dr. Syed now proudly packs the crops of other planters and has even put his own branding on the box to make the packing of his plant popular. They do not compromise on the quality in any way while packing. The advantage of this is that the trader can guess only by looking at the box that there will be good fruit inside it. So he gives good price to the farmer. Now Dr. Syed is also thinking of taking a step towards online business. At the same time, they also have a plan to build a store with a capacity of 70 to 80 thousand boxes. They say that 3 to 4 crore rupees are spent on the construction of such a 6-chamber store. Dr. Syed Owais says that after doing this, he will be able to provide work throughout the year to those employees, who are currently able to work only 4 months of the season. Most of the apple crop is removed from the trees between July and November and packing is done during these days. So now packing workers are hired on contract. When the work is done throughout the year, then there will be stability among the employees too.
Dr. Syed Owais says that he has been hearing for a long time that there will be subsidy from the government for setting up such plants and buying machines etc. to promote modernization, but in his case it has not happened so far. However, he says that after Javed Ahmed Bhat took over as the Chief Horticulture Officer of Pulwama district a few years back, he has definitely got assurances over phone from the Horticulture Office in this regard. This subsidy will probably be of 25 percent.
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