Cherry prospects look cheery in Himachal Pradesh

April 28th, 2009 - 1:39 pm ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, April 28 (IANS) Cherry growers in Himachal Pradesh, often called the country’s fruit bowl, are hoping for a bumper crop.

“We are expecting a bumper cherry crop because of the favourable climatic conditions in the flowering season (March-April). Field reports indicate a good production,” said S.P. Bhardwaj, joint director at the Solan-based Dr Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry.

Himachal Pradesh produced 453 tonnes of cherry in 2008-09, though it was higher in 2007-08 - 698 tonnes.

The state horticulture department believes production will match that of two years ago. “This time, production is likely to cross the mark of 2007-08,” horticulture research officer Daulat Ram said.

The fruit is also fast catching up as an alternative crop in apple-growing areas in the higher slopes of the Himalayas.

The high reaches of Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Chamba, Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti are ideal for cherry cultivation. As per horticulture department estimates, at least 10,000 farmers, most of them with small land holdings, grow cherries over an area of 374 hectares.

Suraj Dogar, a farmer from Prini in Kullu district, said: “Cherries are replacing apples in certain pockets of Kullu, Shimla and Mandi districts as the apple production has declined due to climate changes.”

Explaining the rationale for opting for cherry cultivation, Dogar said fruit required less care than apple and fetched almost the same price. “A 20 kilogram box of apples on an average sells for Rs.400, whereas cherry fetches anything from Rs.200-Rs.300.”

The price of cherry at the Chandigarh wholesale fruit market during the peak season is Rs.200-Rs.250 for a one kilogram box, though the better quality cherry is sold in Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi. Incidentally, the early arrival of the crop in the market fetches rates of even above Rs.300 a box.

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

Besides cherry, other fruits like apple, pears, peaches, apricots, kiwi, strawberry, olive, almonds and plums are the major commercial crops of the state.

The total fruit production in the state during 2007-08 was 712 million tonnes, out of which apple production was 592 million.

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