A story published on Asian News International (ANI) on Thursday reported that Gassu in Kashmir is known as the strawberry village, and the harvesting season begins in May.
The strawberry season in places like Maharashtra and Karnataka runs from the fag end of November until early March, and not much is known about mass scale farming of this fruit in Kashmir. The ANI story reported that strawberry cultivation began to take shape in Gassu about 15 years ago with government support. Men, women and children are involved in nurturing and harvesting the crop, whose season runs from May to June. While Kashmiri fruits like apricots, apples and cherries are well known, strawberries have gained favour recently with tourists thronging the state.
While most farmers and suppliers are optimistic about their produce, a few are advocating for government support. The ANI story quoted farmer Ghulam Nabi Dar as saying, “We need better schemes and assistance from experts to make this business more profitable and encourage more people to join. While a single family can earn lakhs of rupees, the work is equally arduous. We have to invest in labour, fertilization, de-weeding, and other essential aspects, which require capital.” Another farmer expanded Dar’s insight by talking about transport of crops with ANI: “ "We demand refrigerated vehicles from the government to enable the transport of our short-lived fruit to markets across India. It will help us fetch higher prices and ensure the growth of employment opportunities linked to this crop.”
A Hindustan Times story published in 2020 had reported that strawberry farmers from Kashmir suffered losses due to the strict lockdown. The story pointed out that ‘strawberry farming was introduced in the valley due to its favourable climatic conditions and it aids in employment generation for locals in Zakura, Gaasu and Khimber areas, which are situated on the outskirts of Srinagar.'
Now, however, sales have picked up and the only culprit playing havoc is the unpredictable weather. Last year, the crop ripened in April, instead of mid May. One can hope that farmers fare better with government support.