Timely intervention by the Himachal Pradesh government in procuring strawberries from farmers in Sirmaur district has saved them from blues amid lockdown over COVID-19 outbreak.
A state government official said strawberry is one of the crops that perish early but at the same time, it is a good cash crop for farmers.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the farmers in the district used to sell strawberry crop to tourists and other persons along national highways.
Apart from this, they also used to earn good prices by selling it in the markets of other states.
But due to lockdown, the farmers of the district could not venture out to sell the strawberry crop due to which they feared that their crop might perish in the fields itself,” he said.
The official said in the lockdown period, concrete steps were taken by the Horticulture department, Sirmaur and the district administration as per the guidelines of the state government to save the strawberry crop from loss.
“Taking timely decision, the state government decided to buy the crops of farmers through the Horticulture department and HP Horticulture Produce Marketing and Processing Corporation (HPMC).
After the decision of the state government, the Horticulture department and HPMC opened a Procurement Center and purchased more than 120 quintals of strawberries directly from the farmers at the rate of Rs 38 per kilogram.
The Horticulture department purchased 84 quintals for processing in canning unit and more than 36 quintals of strawberries were purchased by the HPMC and direct cash payments were made to the farmers,” he added.
The official said the farmers of Sirmaur district are known for production of peaches, plums, apricots in the country but during last few years, strawberry has caught the attention of large number of farmers in plain areas where it is being produced as a major cash crop.
Due to good price and demand of strawberry in the market, people are now taking keen interest in cultivation of strawberry along with peaches, plums, apricots, which is becoming a source of good income for the farmers.
Besides this, the Horticulture department provided timely pesticides and fungicides for crops through shops selling agri products, for which the department issued curfew passes from time to time during lockdown.
Apart from this, the officials also went to these shops and inspected the stocks so that they could not sell agri-medicines of expired period.
Curfew passes were issued by the district administration and Horticulture department for movement of more than 200 farmers of the district as well as beekeepers for transfer of bees from one place to another during the summer season. Apart from this, the mushroom growers of the district were provided passes to procure compost besides issuing transport passes to the owners of the poultry farms for movement to market.
“Prominent among other fruits produced in large quantity in district Sirmaur include apricot, Plum, Peach etc. The Rajgarh region of Sirmaur is known as the Peach valley due to high quality production of peach.
Elaborate arrangements have been put in place by the Horticulture department to ensure that the orchardists do not face any inconvenience and difficulties in transporting their products to the market.
The department is providing empty boxes through distributors and providing all kinds of insecticides and fungicides for fruit growers in the district,” the government official added.