Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) , June 30 : As the fruits ripen and cherry farmlands turn a deep red, farmers of Kandyali and Narkana are a worried lot. Despite bumper production, low market price has hit the cherry business in the region adversely.
Cherry cultivation until recently was seen as an attractive alternative to the traditional apple cultivation by the farmers of the region. The cultivation of cherry became so popular that the region of Kandiali, Kumarsen, Narkanda, Baghi, Thanadhara - once famous apple-producing bowl of North India has become the cherry bowl of the region.
A large variety of cherries like Stella, Merchant, Vane, Diro-Nero, traditional red heart and black heart varieties and many more are being grown in the region.
According to the farmers, the maturing period of a cherry crop is three years, much lower than apple which takes around 10 years to mature. Moreover, higher investment and lower returns as compared to cherry prompted farmers to move on from apple cultivation.
However, the business is now severely hit due to low market prices. One of the farmers whose annual production turnover is Rs 20, 00,000, is now receiving 50 per cent less than that amount for his produce, despite double annual production this year.
The fruit farmers in Kandyali and Narkanda area in Shimla are now receiving Rs 30-100 for a box of 1 kg cherries, which is in stark contrast to the rate of Rs 300-600 per kg from the previous years. In some regions, cherry boxes are being sold by the farmers for as low as Rs 30 for a 1kg box.
"On an average, Himachal Pradesh produces over 1500 metric ton cherry annually. This year, however, the production is set to exceed that figure because of bumper production. Thousands of fruit growers had reaped the benefits of cherry production. But this year, their income has plummeted to less than 50-80 per cent than the previous years," said Jeet Ram Verma, a cherry cultivator.
The farmers are now demanding that the government should provide support either by providing market for cherry crop or they should make arrangements for transportation of cherries across different states of the country, where they can get better remunerative prices.
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