Market rates of local cherry also pick up, growers happy now
Shopian: Saplings of European sweet cherry imported and planted last year in Kashmir have grown and produced fruit in just one year. This European variety of cherry is bigger in size than the 10 locally grown cherry varieties.
The European sweet cherry was imported by local fruit company Fruit Master Agro Fresh in association with the J&K Horticulture department. These high-density plants are being grown at the ‘centre of excellence’ at Zawoora Srinagar where other fruits like apricot and plum have also been grown on 15 kanals of government land.
“We brought it (European sweet cherry) here in May last year and this year the trees have borne fruits. We have put the produce on display at several places,” said Faisal Ahmad, managing director of Fruit Master Agro Fresh.
He said that the European cherry gets Rs 750 per kilogram rates in the market, which is four times higher than that of any locally grown varieties.
“It grows in size to over 32 mm whereas no locally grown cherry gets more than 28 mm size. It is also resistant to insects and other diseases besides rain, but to contain even the smallest damage due to rain, we are using nets to cover the trees during inclement weather,” Ahmad said.
“I see the European cherry as the future of the cherry industry in Kashmir, given the rates and other qualities of this variety,” he added.
To plant this particular variety, it would cost Rs 3 lakh per kanal initially, Ahmad said.
“We are not yet distributing it among growers. It will be done within two to three years after the horticulture department’s approval,” Ahmad said.
In Kashmir cherry is grown on about 1.2 lakh kanals of land. Last year, the horticulture department assessed that the produce touched 11,000 metric tonnes, which has slightly declined this year.
The rates according to orchardists have seen a satisfactory rise after there was no demand initially due to the Covid lockdown.
“We are selling Mishra and Italy varieties at around Rs 200 per kilogram now, which is a good rate,” said Farooq Ahmad, an orchardist from Shopian who is expecting 1,000 boxes of cherry this year from his orchard.