After witnessing slump in the business last season owing to the countrywide Covid-19 lockdown, the harvesting of the cherry crop is in full swing in the valley with growers getting good returns of their product this time around.
Cherry is one of the important horticultural crops grown in Kashmir as it contains healthy nutrients and excellent antioxidants.
The cherry harvest usually begins in the valley from May and will continue up to the end of July. According to a horticulture department, around 4700 hectares of land are under cherry cultivation in Jammu and Kashmir. The valley annually yields 13,000 tons of cherry fruit.Â In Srinagar, the cherry tree grows at higher altitude locations like Harwan, Dhara, and Nishat. The crop is also grown in Tangmarg areas and in South Kashmir villages as well.
Talking with Rising Kashmir, many cherry growers said that the quality of the crop is much better this year in comparison to the last few seasons.
"Unlike previous years, the weather didn't play spoilsport this time. We are witnessing a good crop and are optimistic of good returns this season,"Â Â a local grower Adil Hussain said.
During the harvesting season, many labourers from Rajouri and Poonch districts come to Kashmir to earn some money.
The cherry crop that grows in the valley is usually of three types that include 'Avval number', followed by 'makhmaly' and the most liked 'mishry'.
Chairman of Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers cum Dealers Union (KVFG), Bashir Ahmad Basheer said that though the production of the cherry crop is less than 50 per cent than last year, "but the quality is much better."
"Due to inclement weather in the months of March and April, the production took a hit this season, but the crop is of good quality," he said.
Basheer said that the growers are getting good rates in the market against their crop.
"The double cherry, which is largely used in the processing units to make different food items, is being sold at Rs 125 per kg. The rate of mishry is Rs 100 to Rs 170 per kg, while makhmaly is being sold at the rate of Rs 70 to Rs 120 per kg," said Basheer.
Basheer said aroundÂ 15 to 20 truckloads of cherryÂ are transported daily to different mandis outside, while around 7000 to 8000 cherry boxes are getting airlifted to different destinations of India.
"Each truck contains up to 4000 cherry boxes," he said.
The fruit mandi in south Kashmir's Shopian district is also witnessing a brisk business as many cherry growers are using the facility to sell their crop.
Mohammad Ashraf, president Fruit Mandi Shopian said that around 40,000 cherry boxes are being ferried to the Mandi daily for sales.
â€œDespite rains and hailstorm, the cherry production is good this year. The fruit is fetching good prices. After witnessing losses last year following the lockdown, the growers are making reasonable profits this season," Ashraf said.
According to a study titled "Trend Analysis of Area, Production and Productivity of Cherry in Jammu and Kashmir" owing to a cold climate of Kashmir, it is inferred that the area under cherry cultivation in the valley has increased from 1974-2017 and the productivity has also shown an increasing trend.
The study reveals that the maximum growth rate is observed in cherry production over the years, whereas the minimum growth rate is exhibited by the productivity of the apple.
"The positive compound growth of production (0.231percent per annum) reveals that there is no decrease in the production of cherry over the years with a maximum of 11.23 metric tons in 2013 and minimum of 0.51 metric tons in 1974 except for some exception for last few years where some fluctuation has been observed in the production of cherry," it said.
â€œSimilarly, the simple growth rate (35.44 per cent per annum) observed in production indicates an increase in the production of cherry in Jammu and Kashmir over the years," the study reveals.
As the pandemic has impacted the horticulturists and the marketing of their produce, the government is also helping the growers to sell the crop.
Director General Horticulture Kashmir, Aijaz Ahmad Bhat said the government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Go AirÂ under which the fare of one kg cherryÂ to New Delhi has been decided to Rs 24, while to Mumbai, the fare of the cherry has been finalized to Rs 34 per kg.
"Keeping in view of the short shelf line of cherry, we have arranged the air transport for the growers so that their product can reach the Mandis on time without losing its freshness," Bhat said.
Bhat said they have also approached the GoI to provide a 25 per cent transport subsidy on all perishable fruits.
"We also have submitted a proposal to the Government of India (GoI) to provide a 25 percent subsidy on transport fare to all perishable fruits including cherry," Bhat said.