Prospects dim for HP growers as cherry harvesting begins amid Covid-19 lockdown
With main markets Delhi and Punjab under lockdown, traders have expressed their inability to buy the produceUpdated: Apr 28, 2020, 18:12 IST
Cherry harvesting has begun in Himachal Pradesh amid the lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 with growers not hopeful of getting good profits as most markets remain closed.
It has been a double whammy of sorts for growers as untimely rain and snow in the higher reaches in the first two weeks of April first impacted fruit development due to a sharp drop in temperature. Just 50% yield is expected this time as against last year’s bumper cherry crop, which was almost 60% higher than that of the previous year, at 225 metric tonnes, which led to a drop in market prices.
Another factor that growers are worried about is that Delhi’s Azadpur Market, from where many of them market the produce, is now a major Covid-19 hotspot. Jahangirpuri, another hotspot, is also facing a labour shortage, because of which traders in the Capital have informed growers in HP about their inability to buy the fruits.
“We are engaged in cherry cultivation and harvesting has already begun. We have been holding discussions with Azadpur traders with whom we have a longstanding agreement for fruit procurement,” said Deepak Singha the general secretary of the Kotgarh Horticultural and Environment Society. Desperate for help, the growers have now approached buyers like Reliance and Big Basket for purchasing the highly perishable fruit.
The society has also suggested that the government allow major companies to send their air conditioned trucks up to Theogh for transporting the produce out of the state. Much of the produce is sold in Punjab and Shimla. “Since Punjab is under lockdown and tourism season has gone for a toss, it’s going to be very difficult to sell the produce,” said Anup Bhailak, a grower in Kotgarh.
More than seven varieties of cherries are grown in the mid- and high-altitude regions of Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Chamba, Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti districts. At least 10,000 small farmers grow cherries in nearly 550 hectares of the total fruit growing area with 75 % cherry cultivation done in Shimla district.
Cherry is now considered by some farmers as a better alternative to apples. Apple trees take 10 years to grow whereas cherry trees grow in three years.
Red , Black Heart, Durane Nero, Stella, Celcier, Bing, Merchant and Sunburst are some of the commercial cherry varieties grown in Shimla district.