Like all other crops, strawberries from the famous Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani belt of Maharashtra are also bearing the brunt of rain shortage this season. The newly-begun season is not going to last long and is likely to collapse after December, Babasaheb Bhilare, chairman, Strawberries Growers Association of India (SGAI), said. The season usually lasts till March.
Last year, strawberry growers had succeeded in a pilot for export and were gearing up for export to Malaysia on a large scale this year. However, since the season is short and production is hit, no export is likely this year, he said. “The start of the season has been good so far with around 20-30 tonne of strawberries finding their way to the markets this year. However, nobody can predict what will happen next because of the water situation,” he said. Strawberry cultivation requires water later in the season as well, he explained. The fruit is selling at around R150 per kg this year and prices are likely to remain on the higher side, Bhilare added.
Although there has been a rise in acreage to around 3,000 acres, the erratic weather conditions and water shortage has neutralised any production rise. Last year as well, production came down by 25-30% as compared with the previous year to 22,000 metric tonne, as against an expected production of 30,000 metric tonne at the start of the season. This year, around 3,000 acres has been planted and the yield was expected to touch 30,000 tonne. The association was expecting surplus yield since farmers had planted strawberries on an additional 1,000-1,500 acres. However, the yield has been impacted at the flowering stage due to the rains.
Strawberries that have found their way into the market are retailing at R150 per kg, he said, adding that it would be difficult to predict the trends in the coming months. The rate usually falls to R50 kg towards the end of the season in January. 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 areas.