Unusually warm weather takes toll on cherry crop in Himachal

Timely rainfall can shoot up the production of cherry up to 375 metric tonnes this year 25 MT more than last season, says managing director, Himachal Pradesh Marketing Board
Apart from apple, cherry production plays an important role in the economy of fruit growers in Himachal. (Deepak Sansta/Hindustan Times)
Apart from apple, cherry production plays an important role in the economy of fruit growers in Himachal. (Deepak Sansta/Hindustan Times)
Published on Apr 23, 2022 03:21 AM IST
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By, Shimla

Weeks of warm and dry weather conditions have taken their toll on stone fruit in Himachal Pradesh. The dry spell has affected the produce, though farmers and government agencies had predicted bumper yield this time after lean season last year.

The weather conditions have impacted the fruit development and resulted in early ripening of cherry. “The dry spell has been unusually long this time. We expected a good crop, but the weather vagaries have reduced the yield,” said progressive fruit grower Anup Bhalaik of Kotgarh, also known as the fruit bowl of the state.

“Cherry crop is normal this year and prices are good. Their demand is high in Delhi and Bengaluru markets. This year, companies from metro cities have sent their agents to the Cherry grown areas. This reduces the efforts of farmers to transport their produce to markets outside the state. Growers are getting good rates at their doorstep. This is a fair model of marketing,” said Sher Singh Chauhan, a cherry grower from Kharahan in Rampur subdivision.

Apart from apple, cherry production plays an important role in the economy of fruit growers in the state. “Last year, the state had produced 350 metric tonnes of cherry. Timely rainfall can shoot up the production of cherry up to 375 metric tonnes this year,” said Naresh Thakur, managing director, Himachal Pradesh Marketing Board, adding that big corporate companies like Reliance and Big Basket procure cherry from Himachal.

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 on nearly 550 hectares of the total fruit growing area with 75% cherry cultivation done in Shimla district only, mainly in Narkanda, Kotgarh, Baghi, Matiana, Kumarsain and Thanadhar. The cherry crop has emerged as an alternative in the apple-growing areas.

This year, the cherry producers are getting good prices ranging between 120 and 300 per kilogram pack in the wholesale. “The demand for cherry is more among the tourists, but arrival is very less in the market so far,” said Riyan, a fruit seller in Shimal’s Lakkar Bazaar.

Cherry is grown in areas above 2,100 metres above sea level. Sweet cherries require very little irrigation as compared to other fruits. Cherry trees start bearing fruit five years after planting. If taken good care of, one plant can bear fruit for up to 50 years. An average of 25kg of fruit is produced on one tree.

Cherry is usually harvested in May. It has to be plucked in a month and sold immediately in the market. Cherry season lasts only one month. The state lacks facilities to store the cherry crop for a long duration.

Some of the varieties grown in Himachal are Durone Nera, Stella, Merchant, Frogmore Early, Black Heart, Bedford, Prolofik, Emperor, Francis and Celsius.

Cherries have many medicinal properties. It is rich in antioxidants, calcium and magnesium. Cherry production is likely to go up by 25MT this year.

Pea crop affected too

The prolonged dry spell has also adversely impacted the pea crop in Shimla district. Peas are sown on 3,500 hectares of land across the district. “There has been no rainfall for the past one and a half month. The crop is beginning to dry up,” said a farmer, Krishan Chand Sharma.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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