Kerala

Strawberry farmers facing COVID-19 slump

The second wave of COVID has dashed hopes of farmers in Kanthallur and Vattavada.  

The farmers of strawberry in Kanthallur and Vattavada have lost their entire crops of two consecutive seasons in the wake of the SARS-CoV-2 wave.

Promoted by VFCPK (Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council, Kerala), many farmers turned to strawberry cultivation after a steady growth was seen in agri-based tourism in the two cool-season vegetable cultivating villages close to Munnar. Unlike other fruits, the shelf life of strawberry is one or two days. The farmers used to sell the fruits to the tourists reaching the farms and they got good prices for it.

When the first wave of COVID-19 hit the State in March last year, the farm tourism was in doldrums. In the second wave, farm tourism was badly hit in the two villages. One of the attractions of the farmers to cultivate strawberry was that it was found congenial to the climate and soil condition in the region.

The harvesting season of strawberry is from March to May. The cultivation of the fruit was first introduced in Munnar by the KDHP (Kannan Devan Hills Plantation ) Ltd over a decade ago with the aim to provide additional income to the plantation workers. The company produced value-added products and it was a success.

The strawberry cultivation got a shot in the arm when Munnar grama panchayat promoted it among the farmers with a promise to procure the fruits. However, it did not materialise, as no follow-up action was done to procure from farmers or make value-added products.

Many farmers in the two villages had also turned to strawberry cultivation after high-yielding varieties were introduced, expecting better prospects when tourism sector opened after the first wave. Now, the second wave had dashed their hopes.

Shelju Subramanyan, a strawberry farmer in Kanthalur, said they used to sell a kilogram of strawberry at a price of ₹500 per kg. The tourists were happy that they got farm-fresh strawberries. “Now, there are no takers and we cannot sell it to the local vendors too,” he said.

If the promoters of strawberry had made arrangements to make value-added products like jam or squash, the produce should not have been lost, he added. Also, no agencies had approached them, Chandrasekhar, another farmer, said.

Horticorp, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), opened a strawberry park at Munnar with the aim to promote farm tourism. An official of Horticorp said in the wake of SARS-CoV-2, the entry into the park was restricted.


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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 9:21:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/strawberry-farmers-facing-covid-19-slump/article34522921.ece

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