During the lockdown of May last year, Kashmir fruit growers appealed to people of the Valley to consume the local cherries and strawberries, as the opportunities to ferry these to markets outside the territory were few. A similar situation confronts the cherry and strawberry farmers this year as well. It is May again; it is again the cherry and strawberry season. But again the Valley is under the lockdown. Growers are again looking for consumers in vain. And incidentally, this year there has been a bumper strawberry crop.
The fruit industry is one of the sectors that has been impacted the most. Horticulture sees a lack of labor to pick the crops and the absence of transportation led to a significant amount of produce rot on the trees. According to an estimate, 80,000 tons of apple had to be stored under Controlled Atmosphere storage last year.
Though cherries and strawberries are a small component of the horticulture produce, it is a highly perishable fruit. Kashmir produces 13,000 to 15,000 tons of cherries. With mandis and markets closed, the farmers fear that the fruit could go waste causing a huge loss. Strawberry is another delicate fruit that has been hit. With a shelf life of just two to three days, the farmers are struggling to sell it.