Farmers in Kashmir are reaping a bumper strawberry crop this season.
The strawberry harvest is expected to double this year due to the weather in Kashmir, which remained pleasant for one-and-a-half month.
“For the past 15 days, we have been picking up the fruit and Insha-allah it will continue for another two weeks. The almighty has blessed us this season,” said Altaf Ahmad (45), a farmer in Gassoo village on the outskirts of Srinagar.
There are about 22 families in Gassoo that sow strawberries.
Ahmad said that he expects the production to cross 4,000kg, double of his last year’s harvest on the three kanals of land.
“Last year, the weather was bad. This fruit neither grows in rains nor does it tolerate the harsh sun. The weather this season has been pleasant,” said Ahmad, whose earnings this year may be anything between Rs 4-6 lakh.
The introduction of strawberry is a recent phenomenon in Kashmir. Most of the farmers in Srinagar and some parts of Ganderbal who have shifted to strawberry farming used to grow vegetables. Some farmers grow multiple crops, including strawberries and other fruits.
“Growing vegetables is no match to growing strawberries. They give you better returns. I started growing the crop some 15 years back and now my whole family, including my two sons, are helping me,” Ahmad said.
Director horticulture, Rafiq Ahmad Hakim, said that strawberries are grown on 174 hectares (3,500 kanals) of land out of the total 2 lakh hectares under horticulture in Kashmir. “Our annual strawberry production is 350 metric tons and it makes some Rs 4.5 crores.”
The farmers have been demanding help from government for exporting the fruit to other states via flights as strawberries have a limited shelf life. “We only produce that much which we consume locally. If the production increases we may tie up with Air India and the railways,” the official said.