Pune: The cold wave in Maharashtra has spelt bad news for the region’s strawberry crop. Farmers in the twin hill towns of Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar, the strawberry capitals of the country, are finding their crop frozen due to the extended cold spell, delaying ripening by at least a fortnight.
While no major damage to the crop has been reported, the harvesting had come down from 100 tonnes a day, a few weeks ago, to around 60 tonnes a day last week.
The hill towns report brisk sales of the crimson-hued fruit between December and March. Strawberries typically thrive when the temperature is around 13-14 degrees Celsius and can withstand temperatures of up to around 28 degrees Celsius, says Krishna Bhilare, vice-president of the All India Strawberry Growers Association and chairman of Shriram Fruit Processing Cooperative Society Ltd, a farmers cooperative in the region.
More than 2,000 acres of farmland is under strawberry cultivation in the region this year and the total harvest is expected to be around 15,000 tonnes, an increase of 5,000 tonnes over last year’s record harvest of 10,000 tonnes.
Strawberries cost upwards of Rs250 per kg in early December when the first fruit comes into the market and the prices come down to Rs80-120 in mid-January. The fruit is currently being sold in the market for Rs60 per kg to retail customers. Bulk sale to firms for processing are, however, conducted at a cheaper rate of Rs25 per kg.
Bhilare said retailer Reliance Retail Ltd is buying 1-1.5 tonnes of the fruit every day for its Reliance Fresh outlets.