Rashid Paul

Amid lockdown, immunity boosting strawberry is rotting in farms

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Farmers unable to acquire cost input; authorities play blind

Srinagar: Strawberry, an immunity boosting fresh fruit of Kashmir, is rotting in the farms amid the continued COVID 19 lockdown.  The farmers are complaining that they are unable to acquire the cost input from the modest sale proceeds in the ongoing season due to the clampdown.

Surprisingly the functional fruit shops in towns and villages are selling the strawberry ten times more the price it is purchased from the farmers.

Gose, a village in the north east of Srinagar has over the years emerged as one of the major strawberry producers in Kashmir. The village has almost 50 hectares of land under the cultivation of the vitamin C rich juicy but delicate fruit.  Almost 150 families according to the village elders are involved with the cultivation of this crop, Kashmir’s first seasonal fresh fruit.

Fayaz Ahmad Dar, alias Kasrishma, told this newspaper on phone that he is unable to fetch the cost input from the little sale proceeds of the crop this season.

“The rates are extremely down. A two kilogram tray of the fruit fetches rupees 180 to 250. The price is too less compared to the cost input including the labor, fertilizers and freight charged on carrying the fruit to the Parimpora mandi in Srinagar”.

Interestingly this scribe could see a pack of 250 grams of the red juicy fruit being sold at rupees 100 at fruit shops in Ompora, a city outskirt on the Srinagar Budgam highway.

Farmers say that they approached the government authorities to ensure a minimum support price for their produce but their prayer remained unanswered.

“We also asked for allowing the fruit vendors to open up their activities so that the crop could be taken to the market. But they (the authorities) made promises not to be kept with”, said

Sharifuddin, another strawberry grower from Batapora, a village adjacent to Gose said, “Our crops are rotting in the fields for want of the buyers”.

The farmer has sold the fruit at rupees 180 to 225 a kilogram last year.

Strawberry cultivation has over the past 18 years emerged as one of the profitable cash crops for farmers in Kashmir.

According to Horticulture Department statistics the Valley produced 425 metric tones of strawberry in 2018-19 from 170 hectares. The outlying village of Srinagar is the highest producers with 377 MTs, followed by Tangmarg of Baramulla and Ganderbal and Pulwama districts.

However, the government has “failed either to make or facilitate” any intervention at value addition of the fruit in the region. Processing units in juices and jams could have prevented the waste of this immunity boosting fruit of Kashmiri farmers.

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