Cheers for cherry lovers with bountiful Himachal crop


Shimla: Cherry lovers can expect a good supply of the luscious fruit this season. Good production of red cherries has once again brought cheers on the faces of its growers in Himachal Pradesh, with production of the fruit expected to be over 520 tonnes this season.

The growers have begun harvesting with expectations of a bountiful crop this season compared to last year, the state horticulture department said.
The department is predicting tGDhat over 520 tonnes of fruit will be picked this season against 433 tonnes in 2011-12. In 2010-11, the state saw a record production of 1,039 tonnes of cherries.

Horticulture Department director Gurdev Singh said, total yield this year was normal. “Last year, the production was down owing to bad weather. This year also, it was hit, but not much,” he said.

The higher reaches of Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Chamba and Kinnaur, at an altitude from 6,000 to 8,000 feet above the sea level, are ideal for cherry cultivation. The hub of cherry cultivation is Narkanda, Kotgarh, Kotkhai and Thanedar in upper Shimla.

At least 10,000 small farmers in the state grow over 20 varieties of cherries on 480 hectares as an alternative high-value cash crop.

“The fruit is fetching a price of Rs.100 to Rs.275 per kg in Delhi’s Azadpur wholesale fruit market these days,” said Gopal Mehta, a prominent cherry grower of Kotgarh.

He said the best varieties of black cherry picked from organic farms were selling at Rs.250 to Rs.350 per kg in the Delhi market this year.

These varieties had however fetched between Rs.350 and Rs.400 last year.
“Last year the production was less but the fruit’s prices were shooting. So far the market has been comfortable. By the end of this month, the prices are expected to tumble due to arrival of the crop from neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir,” Mehta added.

Traders say local varieties have been selling at Rs.100 to Rs.150 per kg in retail in Shimla depending upon the quality and packaging, while imported varieties like ‘deuro nera’ are being sold for Rs.250 to Rs.275 per kg, ‘merchant’ and ‘stella’ at around Rs.200 per kg.
Cherry harvesting in the state will continue till July 15.

S.P. Bhardwaj, former joint director at Dr. Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry in Solan, said cherry cultivation was picking up in the state due to the higher value it fetched in the market than apple.

“As the production of apple is declining due to aging orchards, the growers are switching over to high-yielding cherry rootstock,” said Bhardwaj.

The economy of Himachal Pradesh is highly dependent on horticulture, apart from hydroelectric power and tourism, with the annual fruit industry worth about Rs.2,000 crore.

The total fruit production in the state during April-December 2011 was 328,000 tonnes, of which apple accounted for 275,000 tonnes.


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