SRINAGAR: Altaf Ahmad Mir is trying to salvage any red strawberry from his field and send them packing to the market as continuous spells of rain has damaged most of his crop on a half acre land in Srinagar’s strawberry Village Gausoo.
Along with Altaf more thirty families in the village engaged in strawberry cultivation had to face the rain damage with fungal growth and rot visible in the fields.
Altaf says that there was a hope of a bumper crop this a year as sufficient snow has guaranteed that the crop would have the necessary water available from underneath, however, the damage came from frequent rains in April and May when the crop was setting that spoilt the crop.
Many who generate income in the village by picking and packing the fruit are invisible as families this time manage to do the harvesting cutting down on any further labor costs on harvest.
“It really has been an upsetting venture this year as the local market too has not responded well to the fruit as sales witnessing a slump,” says Mir.
Like Atlaf, Muhammad Iqbal Bajad, cultivates the crop on contract basis, he says rains have washed away his profit this year as 60 percent of crop has been damaged this year.
The growers say that village had taken to the fruit cultivation only a decade ago and behind its success that made it the strawberry village—is the privilege enjoyed by it to produce early than other cultivating areas in Dhara in Srinagar and Tangmarg in Baramulla. This early appearance in the markets has given better returns to the cultivators with cultivation presently carried on several hundred Kanals of land in the village. Growers say that strawberries can be commercially grown on smaller land area and even one Kanal is sufficient to produce 1000 to kilograms of fruit during favorable weather conditions
However the market response of the strawberries too has been hampered by the rains.
“This produce does not have an outside market, and the produce goes to the local markets, will sales this season reaming damp due to frequent rains with customers shying to venture for shopping in the evenings.
“The hopes of any price surge due to less crop output where dashed as local markets have not responded well to the fruit,” say the growers, adding that last year the returns were low for the growers.The crop value in wholesale market, according to growers, is has been hovering from Rs 60-80 per kilogram in markets that initially were double. Grower Altaf said that the promises of exploration of new markets by the government have not been fulfilled as promises that refrigerated vans would carry the produce to other northern India markets have not been fulfilled.
“This measure could not only have given us better prices of our produce, but this could have helped us in future growth of this crop,” feels Altaf, adding “the losses this year are discouraging many growers for further expansion of this crop.”
The rains have damaged all the two prominent varieties grown in the area including Chandler and Senga Sengana.
The crop due to the cold weather has also been produced late this year with growers saying that price has being 20 days late.
“Last year we had almost completed the job, but this year we are still on harvesting that would be followed by a cleanup of the rotten berries,” says Altaf.
According to rough estimates provided previously by the Horticulture department, there are 80 hectares of land under the cultivation with produce touching 900mt in 2012.