Climate conditions in Coonoor, Kotagiri, and Ooty ideal for cultivation
Promoted in a big way about a couple of decades ago but failing to live up to expectations due to a variety of factors, strawberry cultivation has of late been thriving albeit without much fanfare in The Nilgiris.
Attributing it to focused farm practices and dependable marketing arrangements, the Joint Director of Horticulture, the Nilgiris, N. Mani told The Hindu here on Monday that though at present only a few farmers are cultivating strawberries in the district it is in good health.
While in Ooty block five farmers are growing the fruit on about four acres, in Coonoor block eight farmers are engaged in cultivating strawberries over 16.5 acres. In Kotagiri about two acres belonging to four farmers are under strawberries.
Stating that a farm based private company is also part of the activity here, he said that it facilitates contract farming. Pointing out that among the places of cultivation are Kookalthorai, Mynalai and Thambatty, he said that while cultivation in polygreen houses can be done anywhere, the conditions inCoonoor, Kotagiri and Ooty are ideal for open cultivation.
Though the initial investment is high, the returns will be good provided effective tie-up arrangements are made for marketing.
Stating that the strawberries cultivated here are sold mainly in Coimbatore, Chennai and Bangalore, Mr. Mani said that since the potential for expanding the area under the crop was good the department of horticulture would extend help to prospective growers.
Pointing out that subsidy was now being given for mulching and drip irrigation, he said that training and guidance would also be provided. Strawberries can be grown throughout the year.
D. Premchand, a progressive farmer cultivating strawberries on about four acres said that if strawberry cultivation and marketing are done systematically the returns will be good.
Stating that the Nilgiri strawberries competed with those grown in Pune, he said that the former enjoyed the advantage of having a longer shelf life.
Since mechanisation of operations is not possible, the sector depends heavily on labour.
The government can develop the sector by facilitating exports and providing high quality inputs. A cold storage facility should also be made available.