Srinagar: Farooq Ahmad, 45, a former vegetable farmer who switched over to fruits is a worried man. Despite harvesting a bumper strawberry crop, he is feeling restive as customers are hard to come by.
This is the second consecutive year when Ahmad is staring at huge losses. He had switched to growing strawberries after suffering huge losses in the vegetable business. Due to the lockdown and closure of markets, he struggles to find customers for the fruit, which is considered highly perishable.
“On average, I sell some 100-200 boxes daily. Each box contains 2.5 kg strawberries. Due to the lockdown, the prices have dropped as traders are not ready to buy in bulk,” said Farooq.
Hailing from Dara in Srinagar, Farooq said the prices have crashed by almost 40 percent this season. “The rates are very low compared to the previous years. We are not able to recover our costs,” Farooq said.
Strawberry is the first crop of the fruit season in Kashmir. Its harvesting begins from the first week of May. Grown mostly in Dara and Gusoo areas on the outskirts of Srinagar, strawberries are very fragile and have very little shelf life. Over the years many farmers have switched to strawberry farming to earn more profits.
“This is the third year when the growers are witnessing losses. We are not able to get customers due to the lockdown. Growers are selling strawberries at throwaway prices. Transportation of the fruits is equally a big problem,” said Bilal Ahmad, who had converted his veritable garden into a strawberry orchard.
President, Parimpora Fruit Mandi, Bashir Ahmad Basheer said against Rs 450-500, each tray of strawberries is being sold at Rs 200-250.
“Growers are not getting good prices of the produce. Lockdown has rendered people poor. We are worried because the cherry crop is also ready for harvesting. The government should intervene to save farmers,” he said.
Bashir said inclement weather also caused a huge loss to the strawberry crop in Kashmir this year.
Director Horticulture Aijaz Ahmad Bhat advised the growers to visit the department so that they could jointly find a solution to this problem. “They should come to us and we will try to mitigate their problems,” he said.