Agri Business

Mahabaleshwar set for good strawberry season

Alka Kshirsagar Pune | Updated on January 16, 2012 Published on January 16, 2012

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A year after inclement weather took a toll on production, farmers in Mahabaleshwar, the hill-town that produces over 85 per cent of the strawberries in the country, are bracing up for a good 2011-12 season.

“This year we expect production to cross 20,000 tonnes against 17,000 tonnes last year,” Mr Kisan Bhilare, himself a farmer and Vice-President, all-India Strawberry Growers' Association, says. The price of strawberries, at Rs 100-110 per kg at the production end, is also considered to be lucrative.

Adding to the cheer is the fact that domestic demand for the fruit is robust, and thanks to improved logistical support, their strawberries are now also finding takers from far-away cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Ranchi and Jaipur.

Till less than five years ago, the highly perishable nature of the fruit limited its marketability to Mumbai, Pune and Goa.

“The golden quadrilateral helped reach our strawberries to Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad by road,” Mr Bhilare explains, adding that now thanks to the development of a cargo hub for perishable produce at Pune airport, the fruit is now being air-lifted to cities across the country.

Another change that has come about on account of greater awareness amongst farmers is the restricted use of chemical pesticides. According to Mr Bhilare, more growers are using natural neem-based pesticides to spray the plants once flowering starts.

Mahabaleshwar's strawberry season begins around November 15 and lasts till the middle of April. Visitors heading to the charming town know that they are just a few miles away from it the moment vendors selling mounds of freshly picked red berries begin to make their appearance along the narrow, winding, road.

With nearly 2,300 acres under its cultivation, the varieties that reign supreme here are the Californian ones – Sweet Charlie, Camarosa and Winter Dawn, the first accounting for around half the production.

The farmers also tried growing blueberry and blackberry on a commercial scale, but with little success, reiterating that Mahabaleshwar will strictly remain strawberry territory.

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Published on January 16, 2012
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