Fruit growers in Kashmir look forward to compensate losses
On Srinagar-Baramulla national highway, dozens of kiosks have come up in the last 10 days with vendors selling fresh cherries, strawberries and apricots.
Despite losing half of the harvest to hailstorm and winds, season’s first cash crop is already available in the markets of Kashmir.
Due to the recent hailstorms in many areas in Kashmir, 70% of the first harvest of cherry, pear and almond has been damaged, especially in Srinagar, Ganderbal and Tangmarg areas.
The areas which received the heavy hailstorm earlier this month is known for its cherry harvest.
“As per our initial estimates, around 60% to 70% of fruit crop in Faqir Gujri, (Srinagar), Tangmarg and Pattan areas got damaged,” outgoing director general of horticulture Ajaz Bhat said.
Bhat had visited several affected areas to inspect the damage caused by hailstorm.
“This year, hailstorm caused damage in several areas, but Srinagar and parts of Baramulla were worst hit. We have already provided some relief to growers by giving them free fertilisers and asked the disaster management group to help them in getting compensated for the losses caused by weather,” he added.
Though growers have kept their fingers crossed over the first fruit harvest, they are still optimistic.
“The season’s first fruit has already arrived. Hailstorms did have an adverse effect on cherry and other fruits. We are hopeful that rates will increase and the areas which escaped hailstorm would compensate the losses,” said Mohammad Rafiq, a vendor at Narbal.
“I usually sell 30 to 40 boxes every day to the locals but in coming days, when all varieties will be available in market, my sales will further pick up along with good rates,” he added.
As the harvest of other stone fruits like peach, apricot and plum will get ready, more kiosks will come up on the national highway and other places.
Growers say though bulk of stone fruits is dispatched outside the UT, local sales too have a good potential to compensate losses.
“Cherries and strawberries are our season’s first fruit crops, so we always wait for their arrival in markets. Four varieties of cherry, especially Mishri, Makhmali, and Double, have good demand in the market,” said Mohammad Abid, a grower from Sopore.
The cherry harvesting season begins mid-May and lasts up to the first week of July. As per estimates of J&K’s horticulture department, cherry is being cultivated on around 2,800 hectares, which yields an annual turnover of around ₹130 to 150 crore.
Though cherry is grown ubiquitously in the Valley, the major produce comes from central and northern Kashmir.
The UT’s annual production of the stone fruit is around 12,000 to 14000 metric tonnes, depending upon the weather conditions in the winter and spring.
This year weather had been erratic in the winter and early spring with warmer temperatures.
Officials in the horticulture department said the production had reached around 11,289 and 11,789 metric tonnes in 2017 and 2018, respectively. In 2019 and 2020, the cherry production had also been around 12,000 MT, as per the official estimates.
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