Abdul Rehman Bhat, a progressive farmer, is busy these days harvesting grapes from his vast orchard at Repora hamlet of Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.
Repora, a picturesque hamlet, is known as Kashmir’s Grapes Village as almost every household is involved in cultivation of grapes.
Grapes are cultivated on about 60 hectares of land in the village which makes hundreds of people better earn their livelihood. “it's all green here,” says Bhat while pointing towards unending alleys of grapevines in his orchard. “Repora has carved a niche for the cultivation of quality grapes over the years,” he said with a proud smile.
Interestingly a great advantage of Repora grapes is that these get ready when fresh grapes are not available anywhere in the world except Italy.
According to the farmers associated with the grapes cultivation, about 90% of the population of Repora village is associated with cultivation of grapes.
The harvesting season of grapes starts from July till mid September. However this year due to the warm weather conditions, the harvesting of the fruit started earlier and is nearing completion.
Bhat said the production of grapes was comparatively a little less than previous year, however the market value remained good.
“The area started producing grapes during the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh. He used to grow grapes on his land at Repora which is with the horticulture department today. Hundreds of kanals of land are utilised to cultivate different varieties of grapes which include Sahibi, Hussieni, Thomsan and few more,” Bhat said.
The international standard of the best quality of grapes is to have berry size of 4-5 grams. Repora grapes have a size of about 14-15 gms exceeding international standards. " A team of experts a few years back visited our village and they weighed the grapes and one grape weighed 15 grams which is nowhere seen in any part of the world " Bhat added.
The grapes fetch a good price in the local markets. The Sahibi variety is sold at Rs 200 per kilogram and Hussaini variety for Rs 100 a kg.
The villagers also attribute the thriving of grapes in the area to the blessings of a saint, Mir Syed Shah Sadiq Qalandar (RA) who they believe lived in the area. “Good yield of grapes is due to blessing of Shah Sahab (RA),” says Ghulam Muhammad, resident of Repora said.
Former legislator and native of Lar Ganderbal Ganderbal, Shiekh Ishfaq Jabbar, said that his area is known for grapes.
“The government should try to promote this fruit by providing growers with facilities like refrigeration vans and cold storage facilities, besides introduction of latest techniques. Our production could increase manifold and it can also provide good employment generation in future.”
To mention Horticulture is one of the important sectors of Jammu and Kashmir and contributes immensely to the economy here.
This sector strengthens the financial condition of people associated with it, employment generation and other developmental aspects of the Union Territory.
The variety of horticultural products of J&K has earned world-wide fame because of its good quality and taste.
The fruit crops grown here like apple, almonds, walnuts, pears, cherries and apricots in temperate areas and citrus, litchi, papaya, guava etc in subtropical areas are known all over the globe. Saffron cultivation in Jammu and Kashmir is unique in the world as the world's finest saffron is produced here