COVID-19: Cherry farmers suffer in Himachal, sales down by 60-80 pc

Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) [India], June 21 (ANI): Cherry business in the north Indian state has been impacted amid COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers in Himachal Pradesh are disappointed with this years' cherry prices as they have witnessed a sudden drop in sales in the market. Their businesses have been affected by a loss of 60-80 percent.

"The famous apple-producing region is converting into the cherry bowl. Kandiyali, Kumarsen, Narkanda, Baghi, Thanadhara are the area where farmers are shifting more to cherry farming," said Durgu Verma, a cherry grower in Kandyali village, Shimla to ANI.

During the past few years, farmers have adopted cherry as an alternate crop after apple. But this year, low market price and COVID-19 has hit the cherry crop production and business, said Verma. "One of the farmers who sold cherries of over Rs 20 Lakh from his produce here at Kandyali has received less than thirty percent cost for his crop produce despite being double to the annual production they should have from their produce," she added.

"The business has also been impacted by the reduced number of tourists coming to the state during COVID-19," said Verma.

Early this year, the cherry crop was hit by unfavourable weather conditions and now with the commence of COVID-19, it has gotten worse for the farmers. Some farmers survived the situation and had heavy crop production in the district are getting very low prices between Rs 30 and Rs 100 for a box of one kilogram, who were getting Rs 300 to 500 for the same cherry box till last year. According to the local farmers, the lower altitude during the cherry crop was damaged by 90 percent as the farmers could not transport crops to the markets due to Curfew and lockdown.

One of the migrant labourers, Lakshman Dev Kothari from Nepal is also worried as they wanted to bring more people from Nepal including their family members to earn more money after labour work.

Kothari said, "Thousands of fruit growers were getting economic boom of the cherry crop. A small farmer was earning Rs 1 Lakh from cherry growing annually but this year they have been badly hit. This year, the business has been affected by a loss of 60 to 80 percent."

In Himachal Pradesh, cherry is cultivated in nearly 550 hectares area out of the total area, 75 percent cultivation is done in Shimla district. As compared to apple plants, the cherry plant is grown for fruit in three years' time, however, the apple tree takes ten years to grow its fruit. On average, the state produces over 1,500 metric ton cherry annually.

In Shimla, districts Narkanda, Kandyali, Kotgarh-Kumarsen, Rampur, Rohru and Kotkhai are the main areas of cherry cultivation.

The state has over 35,000 hectares of land under stone fruit and produces over 50,000 metric tons. In Shimla district alone, the stone fruit area is 4,500 hectares land and produces nearly 4,000 metric ton stone fruits including nearly 1,500 metric ton cherry. (ANI)