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Strawberry prices up by 40 per cent in Pune? Soaps, cosmetics, perfumes... and wine to blame

At least 40 per cent of the strawberry crop from the state is going to non-food processing industries through three major famer societies,representing the growers.

pune Updated: Mar 19, 2018 15:19 IST
Shrinivas Deshpande
Shrinivas Deshpande
Hindustan Times, Pune
A batch of freshly harvested strawberries in Mahabaleshwar currently costs between Rs 100- Rs 110 per kg.(HT PHOTO)

Strawberries and cream is no longer a five-star hotel menu staple. It is increasingly the order of the day for breakfast in homes across the country during the strawberry season, January to April , and beyond. However, the prices of strawberries are going to be at least 30 per cent higher this year. Increased health awareness is one factor being cited by the strawberry growers association of India (SGAI), representing growers in Mahabaleshwar, one of the country’s largest producers of the berry. “However, the use of strawberries to produce wine and in non-food consumer products are the other reasons increased demand is going to result in increased prices this year,” is how Balasaheb Bhilare, president of SGAI, explains it.

Therefore, the fact that the SGAI expects production to cross 2,000 tonnes this year, higher than the 1,622 tonnes produced during 2016-17, is of little consequence in terms of pricing.

Bhilare says, “Unseasonal rains damaged the early sown crop this year, but late sown varieties not only have saved us, we are expecting a bumper production. Despite this bumper crop, strawberries are being sold at Rs 100-Rs 110 per kg, retail in Mahabaleshwar, as against Rs70- Rs 80 per kg last year. This is also due to higher demand from the non-food industries.”

At least 40 per cent of the strawberry crop from the state is going to non-food processing industries through three major famer societies,representing the growers.

Bhilare adds, “The demand for strawberries in non-food industries is from cosmetics, soaps and perfumes. We have also created ‘Kingberry’ wine, a brand purely made from strawberries in this region.Till few years ago we generally sold our product in local markets, but now, through SGAI, our produce goes all over India.”

Kingberry is distilled out of Solapur and according to the SGAI, 50,000 litres were sold last year.

SP Gaikwad is a strawberry scientist and assistant professor at the National agricultural research station in Ganeshkhind, Pune. He believes the use of improved strawberry varieties like Nabila and Camarosa have resulted in bumper production this year.

”We have taken many tests of these varieties.Each plant produces 700 gm-800 gm of strawberries which is much more than previously used varieties like Sweet Charley. Unseasonal rain damaged the strawberry crop in Wai as they sow early, but quality strawberry from Mahabaleshwar and the surrounding areas have not faced any difficulties,” Gaikwad says, adding, “The price of strawberries in Pune and Mumbai is approximately Rs 140 per kg right now.”

Deepak Chavan, a strawberry grower near Mahabaleshwar says,“This year our farm produce has been getting a good price as compared to the last few years.In this week we have sold table-ready strawberries at Rs 100-110 per kg.We hope this will continue till end of the season.”

This year in Maharashtra strawberries were cultivated on 2,400 acres of land, out of which 80 per cent is in Mahabaleshwar and the surrounding areas alone.

Maharashtra produces 60 per cent of the strawberries that are grown in India.

First Published: Mar 19, 2018 15:19 IST