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30% better yield at Kashmir’s strawberry village; farmers cite 'favorable weather conditions'

Gasso village alone produces about a thousand trays, or 2000 kg of strawberries every day, and the existence of cold storage units can help their fruit last for a long time and get good prices.

By Jahangir Sofi
New Update
strawberry harvest in kashmir

‘Seasonal rainfall stats for Kashmir record a deficit of 11.3 percent from 1 Mar to 11 May 2023’

As the strawberry harvesting season in Kashmir approaches its end phase, fruit growers in the Gasso area of Hazratbal, Srinagar, report a 30 percent increase in fruit production compared to previous years, citing better climatic conditions (Frequent and regular wet spells) for the fruit this year.

strawberry harvest in Gasso area of kashmir
Bountiful Harvest: Celebrating a successful strawberry season in the Gasso area of Kashmir with a 30% increase in fruit production. Photo Credit: Jahangir Sofi/Ground Report

Spike in fruit production

Manzoor Ahmad, who has been in the strawberry business for the last 8-10 years, told Ground Report that they saw a 30 percent increase in strawberry fruit production this year, citing this year's 'feasible' climatic condition as the reason for the produce.

"We had a good strawberry fruit produce this year, as compared to the last few years, there was an increase of around 30% production as the climatic conditions were more favorable for the fruit," Ahmad added.

He stated that, while production increased, the quality and strength of the fruit suffered as a result of the earlier incessant rainfall in March and April, but that they had a good crop harvest this year, inviting a good demand from both the retail and wholesale markets.

Gusso area of Hazratbal, Srinagar, strawberry harvest
Proud to carry nature's bounty: Kashmiri farmers shoulder the bountiful crop of strawberries, a reward for their diligence and resilience. Photo Credit: Jahangir Sofi/Ground Report

Another fruit grower, Bilal Ahmad, who runs a strawberry fruit nursery nearby, claimed to have noticed an increase in fruit production after an extended period of time and attributed it to the local climate's frequent and regular wet spells.

"The amount of fruit produced depends on how hard a farmer works in his or her field. My family and I operate a sizable strawberry fruit nursery, and we work all year in our field, but there may be other farmers who do not work as hard. This year's climate conditions were more doable than in prior years, but the production is based on the labor one does," the man added.

Seasonal Rainfall Data

A senior official at Srinagar's MeT weather station told Ground Report that a range from -19 to +19 percent comes under the normal category, regardless of the Kashmir division recording a total rainfall deficit of 11.3 percent from 1 March to 11 May 2023, with district Shopian recording the highest deficit of 31 percent.

Gusso area of Hazratbal, Srinagar, strawberry harvest
Kashmiri women pick the juiciest treasures of the season at the strawberry harvest. Photo credit: Jahangir Sofi/Ground Report

According to the seasonal rainfall data collected for the Kashmir division from 1 March to 11 May 2023, the next lowest rainfall district was Shopian, followed by Budgam and Frontier districts with deficits of 26% and 29%, respectively, and Srinagar with a deficit of 8%.

Sacristy of water supply

The strawberry growers in the area claim that in addition to a sufficient quantity of drinking water, they also require an adequate water supply for their strawberry fields. They claim that the lack of bore wells and the depletion of surrounding water canals are becoming serious issues for them.

"A regular supply of irrigating water is necessary for the growth of strawberry fruit, and either that occurs naturally in the form of rain or we have to irrigate through pumps using hose pipes, but the depleting water level in nearby canals is turning into a major concern for us," said a fruit grower.

Gusso area of Hazratbal, Srinagar, strawberry harvest
In the heart of Kashmir, witnessing the magnificent strawberry harvest season unfold. Photo Credit: Jahangir Sofi/Ground Report

Aijaz Ahmad, a local fruit grower, stated that they are looking for a response from the relevant horticulture department to install bore wells so they can timely irrigate their strawberry fields.

The local farmers claimed that this year's market response had been positive and that many buyers had come to them directly to buy strawberries in addition to buying them in bulk.

Disconnect With Growers

The local strawberry farmers claim there has been a disconnect with the relevant department for the past few years because no government agency or other institution has ever provided competent advice on how to grow fruit.

Gusso area of Hazratbal, Srinagar, strawberry harvest
Preserving crop value: Fruit growers in Kashmir urge authorities to set up cold storage units, improving market value and extending the shelf life of their produce. Photo Credit: Jahangir Sofi/Ground Report

"The horticulture department used to come and help us if there was any damage, rot, or illness in any of the fruit plants earlier, but in recent years there has been full disregard since they no longer frequently visit this area. Fruit grower Bilal Ahmad remarked, "We are on our own if there is any problem with the plant or fruit growth, we handle it our own manner."

Strawberry Season & Growth Cycle

Strawberries, which have a brief fruit stay season, are among the first fruit comers in the valley, requiring intense pruning and de-weeding in March and April before the harvest begins in May and lasts only 10 to 15 days.

Strawberry fruit saplings are planted in July-August every year, according to fruit farmers, and after a gap of 10-15 days, a water supply of roughly 5-6 at regular intervals is started. The process is subsequently followed by pruning, and the parent plant produces another plant known as a 'Runner,' which later develops its roots.

The growers stated that the cycle of producing runners continues until about the middle of September. Afterward, they undertake another pruning process, make beds, and spread cow dung as manure before leaving the fields until March.

A second pruning procedure is conducted in March, followed by a small urea cover to maintain the plants' green color, and the fields are then left alone until harvest. The parent plant is removed in October of the harvesting year, but the runner is left in the field.

Demand for cold Storage

Fruit growers in the area urged the authorities to develop cold storage units so that their products might offer higher rates and stay in the market for a more extended period of time.

According to the farmers in the area, Gasso village alone produces about a thousand trays, or 2000 kg of strawberries every day, and the existence of cold storage units can help their fruit last for a long time and get good prices.

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