Tourists coming to Kerala will soon have a mouth- watering incentive to visit the hill station of Munnar. They can walk into any outlet of the Kerala State Horticultural Products Development Corporation (Horticorp) in Munnar and buy a range of processed products made from strawberry cultivated by local farmers.

With farmers in Munnar and other temperate areas in Idukki district taking to the cultivation of strawberry in a big way, the State Horticultural Mission Kerala (SHM-K)) has embarked on a project to provide critical support facilities for procurement, marketing and value- addition of the high- value crop.

On Friday, Agriculture Minister K.P.Mohanan is scheduled to inaugurate the new strawberry processing unit established at Munnar with financial assistance from the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) scheme and Horticorp. Set up at a cost of Rs.1 crore, the plant has a capacity to process 1.5 tonnes of strawberry per day, which can be upgraded to 15 tonnes per day. It is equipped with pre cooling chambers and cold storage facility.

Apart from strawberry preserve, the unit will also manufacture other value added products like strawberry jam and squash. During the off season period for strawberry, it can process other fruits like mango, peach, plum, pear, apple and passion fruit, grown by farmers in Vattavada, Kanthalloor, and Munnar, under a fruit belt programme taken up by SHM-K.

Mission Director K.Prathapan told The Hindu that Horticorp would procure the strawberry directly from farmers. Strawberry varieties like Winter Dawn, Sweet Charlie, Camerosa and Festival are cultivated organically in 625 acres in Munnar and other parts of Idukki. The fruit is harvested from February to mid- May.

“Since strawberry is a highly perishable fruit, processing is to be initiated within a few hours after harvest. The plant will employ a team of women trained at the Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore”, Dr.Prathapan said.

The products manufactured at the processing plant will be marketed under Horticorp’s Safe- to- Eat brand named Amruth. The entire range will be available across the state in due course, Dr.Prathapan said.

Horticorp is planning to develop a farm tourism model in Idukki. It is also drawing up a project to introduce more products like strawberry crush and strawberry candy in the market. “In time we hope to replicate the success of Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra, the main hub of strawberry cultivation in India”, says Dr.Prathapan.

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