A depleting water table and constant climatic changes at twin hill stations of Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra are now beginning to leave a lasting effect on the strawberry production.
A depleting water table and constant climatic changes at twin hill stations of Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra are now beginning to leave a lasting effect on the strawberry production. The late arrival of winter has hit cultivation of strawberry which is in huge demand by this time of the season.
As a result, prices still remain in the range of Rs 125 per kg. Normally prices subside by this time of the year and go down to sub-Rs 100 levels, top officials of the Strawberry Growers Association of India (SGAI) said. With the fruit in short supply, exports have also dried up and farmers are now focusing on the domestic market since they are getting better rates here.
According to Babasaheb Bhilare, chairman, SGAI, this season is likely to be short and may wind up in March itself because the fruit is in short supply.
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In Maharashtra alone, strawberries are cultivated on around 2,500 acres of land. But this year, the fruit was cultivated only on around 1700-1,800 acres of land. Bhillare said the late arrival of winter forced several farmers to do away from the cultivation as chances of good yield was very low, which has impacted on the yield of the fruit.
As a result, the availability of the fruit in the market is less by around 30-40 %. The production of the fruit has come down by around 33% as several farmers could not sow seeds due to the late arrival of winter season. Production has come down to barely 2,000 tonnes from 2,500 tonnes last year.
“Although there have been ample rains this season, the monsoon was delayed and water availability has already become an issue. The climatic change is beginning to show its impact on the water table and as a result the seasons are getting shorter. Although mulching and drip irrigation is used by farmers, there are limitations and this shows on the production.There is a limitation on the land and water availability as well and only so much can be done,” he said.
Thanks to lower production, there is no opportunity available for export A couple of seasons ago, strawberry growers had succeeded in a pilot for export and were gearing up for export to Malaysia on a large scale. However, since the season was short in the succeeding year and there was no export, the picture looks bleak this year as well.
Around 2,000 farmers are involved in strawberry cultivation. Satara district accounts for the country’s 80% strawberry production and the fruit is grown mainly in Mahabaleshwar, Wai and Panchagani area.