Srinagar, Aug 09: Kashmir is known for many types of quality fruits but only few people are aware of high-quality grape cultivation in Repora village in Ganderbal district which contributes the major chunk of the crop production in the valley.
Director Horticulture Kashmir, Ghulam Rasool Mir said the valley annually produces 1615 metric tons of grapes of which 1285 mt is produced in Ganderbal district alone.
Grapes are cultivated in about 60 hectares in this central Kashmir’s Repora village which is a source of livelihood for many people during the harvest season.
The main varieties of grapes grown in Kashmir are Sahibi, Hussaini, Kishmish, and Perlette. Well-drained sandy loam soil is best suited for grape cultivation.
The grapes of Repora are ready when fresh grapes are not even available anywhere in the world except in Italy. 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.
Official figures reveal that 232 hectares of area is under grape cultivation production in Kashmir including 202 hectares in Ganderbal. This is followed by 16 hectares in Baramulla, 5 hectares each in Kupwara and Bandipora, and 4 hectares in Kulgam.
Director Horticulture Kashmir said Ganderbal area, especially Lar block is known for production of high-quality grapes adding that the prominent grape-producing villages are Repora, Watar, and Khanhama.
He said the valley annually generates Rs 12 crores (approximately) from the crop production. Last year, Kashmir produced 1615 mt of grapes and this year the horticulture department expects 1700 mt production, he added.
Mir said over the years, the area of grape cultivation has slightly increased in the valley. “The grapes produced locally are consumed here and local merchants go directly to producers. The local demand is not fulfilled,” he said.
“If the grape production increases and we feel there is a need to transport it outside Kashmir, then we will have to think over it. But the farmers get a good price locally,” he said.
The horticulture department, he said, has a total capacity of 2 lakh mt controlled atmosphere (CA) storage facility at Baramulla, Pulwama, Srinagar, Budgam etc.
“So far we have never felt the need to store grapes as the fruit is consumed locally. If farmers need to store their produce they can do it,” he said.
The department has taken a number of initiatives for the promotion and production of high-quality grapes. The area expansion programme launched by the department has encouraged farmers to bring more area under high-quality grape varieties.
Mir said the department is providing a high-quality support system for the grape plants, which has replaced the traditional wooden support system that was one of the main causes of diseases/pests in grapes.
“Support systems are being provided by the department. Anti-hail and anti-bird nets are also provided to growers. The department conducts special awareness camps for grape growers to inform them with the latest technical know-how,” the Director said.
The Director Horticulture said there is a growing demand for the latest high-yielding and high-quality grape, more support systems, anti-rain UV resistant film and anti-bird net.
About the trade of grapes, he said all the produce is consumed locally and there is no out of state trade. He said for the production of best quality grapes, the support system needs to be changed from bower to V-trellis system.
“It should be ensured that near the harvesting time, the orchards should be completely sanitized of all the weeds, grasses etc., so the different diseases and pests may not attack the crop,” he said.
While talking about the diseases faced by grapes during harvest time, the director said heavy infestation of diseases especially during the rainy season is a very common phenomenon. “With the departmental intervention and canopy management has drastically reduced disease incidence in grapes thereby resulting in significant improvement in quality,” he said.
Abdul Rehman, a garden owner, said he works very hard to increase the farming but sometimes they have to suffer huge losses due to different diseases.
“If we do not use spray on time to cure disease, the entire crop will be affected and the people associated with it will have to suffer heavy losses,” he said.
The international standard of the best quality is to have berry size of 4-4.5 gms. However, Repora grapes have a size of 12.5 gms exceeding international standards.
Another farmer, Abdul Hameed said besides Italy, the Repora area is perhaps the only place in the world where fresh grapes are available in large quantities.
According to locals, the grape crop in Ganderbal began when Maharaja Hari Singh first brought it from Afghanistan to India.
“Even Maharaja used to grow grapes in his land in Repora which is with the Horticulture Department today,” the locals said.