Strawberry growers fear loss amid Covid-19 lockdown in Kashmir

Srinagar, May 17: Though the first horticulture crops of the summer season in Kashmir – strawberries are ready for plucking, owing to the lockdown to curb the spread of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), farmers fear major losses.

Goose, a village in Srinagar has almost 50 hectares of land under the cultivation of the vitamin C rich juicy but delicate fruit. Besides Srinagar, strawberries are grown in Ganderbal, Budgam, Baramulla, Bandipora, Kupwara, Anantnag and Pulwama.

“There is a poor transport facility and closure of the market due to the COVID-19 lockdown is a worrying sign. The strawberries in this area are spread over a large area. The market value of the fruit has also come down,” Saqib Ahamd, a strawberry farmer said.

He said the administration must take up steps so that they can save the fresh fruit from the rotting.

Chairman of the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers cum Dealers Union, Bashir Ahmad Bashir said that the administration must provide a transport facility to growers and facilitate shipping the produce outside Kashmir.

“There is a local consumption of strawberry but it’s not to the extent that all our produce can be consumed within the valley itself,” Bashir said.

Bashir said though lockdown is must to curb the Covid-19 infection, for the growers, selling of their produce is also equally important.

“The strawberry fruit can’t be stored for long. We cannot store it for long because of its short shelf life, it needs to get to the market soon,” Bashir said.

Dr. Rifat Bhat, Assistant Professor Fruit Science, K-SKUAST said that the strawberry is a perishable, soft fruit as it will not remain for long time.

“Growers must tie up with nearby Mandis or sell it through local consumption,” she said.

Mir Manzoor Deputy Director Horticulture Kashmir said that they held a meeting with the divisional administration regarding strawberry and cherry fruit.

“The good news is that the order has been issued that Parimpora Mandi will remain open for a longer time now,” he said. kno

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