Shopian: With a significant improvement in weather conditions, the cherry picking has begun in some parts of central and south Kashmir.
The Siya (Black) and Italy varieties of cherry are being harvested in parts of Srinagar, Ganderbal and Shopian districts On Saturday, Fruit Mandi Shopian received the first lot of around 3,000 cherry cartons.
Muhammad Ashraf Wani, a grower and former president of Fruit Mandi Shopian told Greater Kashmir that the Mandi received the first batch of cherries from Srinagar and Ganderbal districts.
"This year the farmers in Shopian are expecting to reap a bumper crop", Wani said. The harvesting season will peak in the next two weeks and continue up to June end.
While the Makhmali, Siya and Double varieties of the fruit are harvested from the second week of May, the Mishri, one of the most sought after verities will be ready for harvesting in the first week of June. An official from the Department of Horticulture said that around 4700 hectares of land are under cherry cultivation in Jammu and Kashmir.
He said that the region produces annually around 13000 to 15000 metric tons of cherries. "Of them Shopian district alone produces around 6 to 7 thousand metric tons ", said the official.
Nearly a dozen villages including Losdanew, Nagisharan, Imamashab and Arshipora villages in Shopian district are the rich producers of different verities of the cherries.
While the cherry harvesting is slowly picking pace, the good market prices have brought cheers to the farmers. "As of now one Kilogram of Italy variety is sold at Rs 70 to 80 in Fruit Mandi Shopian", said Wani. He said that they were looking forward to good market rates.
Over the past two years, the farmers cultivating horticulture crops suffered losses due to protracted COVID-19 lockdowns and inclement weather conditions. This year, however, the farmers are expecting to reap rich dividends.
It may be mentioned that in 2018 and also the subsequent years, despite witnessing a bumper crop, Kashmir’s farm produce of “double cherry” had seen a decline of almost 30-40 percent in market prices as the yield was quite small in size causing deep anguish among cherry growers and traders.
The double cherry which is the first produce of the fresh fruits of Kashmir is mostly used by food processing industry as canned cherry in Kashmir and outside the Valley as well.
Nature’s fury had saddened cherry growers and fruit traders who had lamented huge losses due to a bumper but low quality crop which they blamed on unfavorable weather conditions.
Kashmiri double cherry which was fetching growers Rs 100 per kilogram in 2018 was getting the growers only Rs 30-Rs 60 per kg in 2018.
Lack of a robust marketing platform coupled with opportunistic approach of middlemen in the mandis had taken a toll on Kashmir’s cherry growers as market prices of their farm produce for few years had witnessed a nosedive.
However, growers are keeping fingers crossed this year and officials are making tall claims of better marketing platforms.
For last few years, all cherry and plum loaded trucks being supplied from Kashmir were being stopped at Qazigund and other places on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway “to pave way for other vehicles”, which as per growers was causing damage to the perishables.