Assam: Its Strawberry harvest time but farmers in Karbi Anglong sense deep trouble!

GUWAHATI, March 1: It’s harvest time and the blushing fields of strawberry in the remote pockets of Karbi Anglong are beehives of activity. Marginalized farmers are busy gathering their harvest but lack of support to sell the strawberries beyond the local market is creasing their brows.

The local market is their only conduit of sale and so the farmers feel they could focus on by-products like jams and jellies for bigger gains. But there is no infrastructure to support refrigeration, processing and marketing of the fruits.

For close to five years, varieties like ‘Sweet Charlie’ and ‘Festival’ have been the toast of Karbi Anglong. “We are in talks with representatives from the Karbi Autonomous Council and bureaucrats in Dispur so that the farmers can get infrastructure support,” said Jiten Saranphanso of the Karbi Anglong Ginger Growers’ Cooperative Federation Ltd (GINFED), and the owner of an orchard. The process of transportation of the fruits from the fields to the market needs refrigeration, storage, preservation and marketing support, he said.

“To make the best use of the leftover fruits, a processing plant has to be in place,” he added.

The fruit as of now is being cultivated in the Diphu subdivision and Manja. Over 50 farmers are engaged in the cultivation in Karbi Anglong with each farmer growing the fruit in half bigha plots.

Kurusar Timung and PP Hanse were the pioneers to take up strawberry cultivation. Later, GINFED started imparting training to the farmers in the art of strawberry cultivation. GINFED now has a team of especially trained strawberry farmers.

Saranphanso, himself planted 900 saplings last November on a plot of two bighas. The rich soil of Karbi Anglong is excellent for growing the Sweet Charlie variety. “We need transportation facilities as strawberries are perishable items and require proper maintenance during transportation,” added Saranphanso.

A kilo of strawberries is sold between Rs 500-800. The involvement of GINFED and the agriculture department has ensured farmers from limited economic backgrounds are able to sell their produce directly to the consumers.
Source: Times of India 
Image Courtesy: Internet sources
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