Low yield in Asia’s peach bowl fetches high price

July 10th, 2011 - 2:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Rajgarh (Himachal Pradesh), July 10 (IANS) In Asia’s main peach bowl - Rajgarh belt in Sirmaur district - production of the fruit is expected to decline by over half compared to last year. But farmers are not complaining, thanks to the record prices in north Indian cities.

Horticulture officials say the total production of around 5,000 tonnes this season will be almost half compared to last year’s bumper production of 10,500 tonnes.

They said an extended winter has hit the crop when it was in the blooming stage - a period when flowers start to blossom in March.

“It’s a normal pattern that after the bumper crop, the next one is lean. But weather vagaries this year too have further declined the production,” Himachal Pradesh horticulture director Gurdev Singh told IANS.

He said like apple, cherry, pear and other fruit crops, the peach crop too was affected across the state.

Harvesting is in full swing these days and peaches have started reaching Chandigarh, Amritsar, Karnal and Delhi, according to him.

“Of course, bad harvest spells windfall for the farmers. A 10 kg box of superior varieties of peach is fetching Rs.300-Rs.350 in Delhi, whereas last year it was around Rs.150,” Singh added.

R.K. Dhiman, a horticulture official based here, said the quality of the fruit is healthier this year as compared to last year.

“Sufficient rain in May and June has increased the moisture content in the soil that has helped the remaining crop attain the optimum size,” he said.

Almost 50 percent of the crop has been transported out of the Rajgarh belt, named as the state’s peach valley by the state government in 2005, Dhiman said.

Sher Jung, a farmer, said peach production this season has declined by over 60 percent but the shortfall has made the business profitable.

“Throughout the season the market has not fluctuated much. Last year, the prices suddenly crashed with the onset of harvesting,” he said.

“This year, the prices are almost double of what we received last year,” the farmer said, adding the best varieties from organic farms have a good demand in Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi.

Another grower, Ravinder Chauhan, said this time the buyers have procured the fruit from the orchards themselves. “The weather vagaries have turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the farmers.”

Trade representatives in Chandigarh’s wholesale fruit market said even though peach is also cultivable in Punjab and Haryana, the fruit grown in the hills has more demand.

“The price of peaches from the hills is almost double that belonging to the plains. They are more sought after due to natural colour and they are also fleshy,” fruit seller Nitin Sethi said.

In Himachal’s Sirmaur district, the peach is grown on 3,000 hectares, out of which 1,659 hectares comes in the Rajgarh belt alone.

The other prominent belt in the district is Pachhad, where it is grown on 880 hectares. In Kullu district, peach is grown in some pockets.

The state’s first chief minister, the late Y.S. Parmar, was credited for promoting peach cultivation in Sirmaur district.

The fruit economy of the state is around Rs.2,000 crore and is flourishing mainly in Shimla, Kullu, Sirmaur, Mandi, Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba districts.

According to the economic survey (2010-11) report, apple is the main fruit crop of the state that accounts for 81 percent of the total fruit production.

Other fruits like peaches, pears, cherries, apricots, kiwis, strawberrys, olives, almonds and plums are the major commercial crops of the state.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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