SRINAGAR: Strawberry cultivation is picking up in J&K thus yielding good fortunes and providing ample employment opportunities to youth.
Both Government of India and J&K Government are providing loans coupled with technical handholding to young farmers to attract them towards the farming business.
The favourable climatic condition in the J&K has provided ample opportunities for the youth to take up strawberry farming as a business for better sustainability.
Farmers in Gassu Batpora village on the outskirts of Srinagar city are happy with the bumper crop of strawberries.
Having the highest number of people growing strawberries, Gassu is famously known as the ‘Strawberry Village’ where farmers cultivate tonnes of exotic berries on hundreds of acres of land every year.
It is also the first one to produce strawberries in the entire Kashmir valley with women and children chipping in to taste the success of this fruit.
In recent years, strawberry has emerged as a cash crop in the valley with many vegetable farmers switching to strawberry cultivation.
Besides strawberry, Kashmiri fruits like apple, cherry, grapes, apricot and plum are also very famous across the world for their quality and rich taste and are bringing good returns to the Valley’s farmers.
Defence personnel Dheeraj Kumar began his second innings as Agriprenuer and has become a role model for many aspiring Agripreneurs especially the youth who are looking forward to make fortunes in Agriculture & Allied sectors.
The Progressive farmer Dheeraj Kumar hailing from Haripur Village of Border Sub Division Hiranagar has cultivated strawberries on a field measuring 22 Kanal. With the handholding of the department, he has cultivated three different varieties viz. Camarosa, Winter Dawn & Nubila.
Regarding the support extended by the department, an official said that out of the total investment of Rs 6 lakh by the farmer, the department has provided subsidy to the tune of Rs 2.86 lakh which is nearly 50% of the total investment and it is expected to produce a yield of Rs. 15-20 Lakhs which is in line with the PM’s vision of Doubling the farmers’ income.
In addition to this, the department has also provided the subsidy to the farmer on purchase of power tillers and installation of the drip irrigation system.
Dheeraj Kumar has engaged around 10 people for levelling, picking, packaging and transport purposes, which he termed as a gratifying experience as offering the avenues of employment to the locals has given him great happiness.
He is supplying his produce to the Big Malls and Business houses viz. Jammu Basket, Easy Day, Big Bazar, Markets in and around Pathankot and areas in the periphery of Punjab adjoining Kathua.
With implementation of Horticulture Mission in J&K, there has been a significant improvement in production and productivity which has ultimately resulted in changing the financial scenario of the farming community. Besides economic upliftment, Horticulture 1/8th acre of land of Abdul Ahad Mir was brought under cultivation of strawberry in Gousoo under Horticulture Mission.
With the continuous guidance of the department, the farmer emerged as a leading strawberry grower who earned National and State awards. Starting from a meagre land of 1/8th acre of land, now the entire village and the adjacent villages have adopted cultivation of strawberry which has now touched around 40 acres of land in the vicinity. The annual income of the farmer per acre is about 5 lacs as compared to 20,000 to 25,000 prior to adoption of diversification.