Srinagar: Harvesting of strawberries – the first fruit crop of the season – is in full swing in the valley, with growers dispatching them to markets.
The farmers in the Gassu village, located on the outskirts of Srinagar in Hazratbal tehsil, are busy harvesting strawberries. Gassu is known as the ‘strawberry village’ of Kashmir for having the highest number of people growing this fruit.
“Around one thousand farmers from Gasoo are involved in the strawberry trade,” Manzoor Ahmed, a fruit grower, told a local news gathering agency.
He, however, said the fruit has suffered a 30 percent loss in production this year compared to the last year.
Manzoor said the intermittent rains during the harvest period severely damaged the crop. “Despite the weather’s whims, this year’s production is satisfactory, but it could have been a bumper crop for the growers if continued rains did not happen during the peak season,” he said,
The strawberry crop needs drizzles or evening showers manually or naturally, but the constant and heavy showers throughout the month of April and May dampened the production, he said.
Manzoor said that in order to protect the crops from the hot weather, the farmers usually sprinkle water on the fields, but this year’s constant rain caused the crops to wither.
Gaasu village alone produces almost one thousand trays equal to 2000 kg per day, Manzoor said, adding that an eight-tray-bowl of 2 kg strawberry costs Rs 220 in the field. He said one of the major problems that the farmers face is the transportation of the fruit from the Gasoo to the market. “If we are provided cold storage, this crop could be developed and the production will increase in a massive way in Kashmir,” he said.
Mohammed Amin Bhat, a technical officer in the Directorate of Horticulture Kashmir, said that around 80 hectares of land are under strawberry production. He said the farming is mainly done in Srinagar’s Gasoo and Baramulla’s Tangmarg area. In 2022, the total production of strawberries was around 350 metric tonnes, he said.
Admitting that the farmers have suffered losses this year, Bhat said, “The crops suffered a loss due to heavy rains. Stocking of the crop is a major issue that Kashmiri strawberry farmers face because it is a perishable crop and its life is not beyond two days if not preserved under favourable conditions.”
The officer said the Horticulture Department has launched various schemes for the promotion of fruit plant nurseries for strawberries but no farmer turned up for it. “We can give them a 50 percent subsidy if they come forward,” Bhat said. (KNO)