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Published by: navinnie on Mar 02, 2011
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India: Strawberry cultivation gets a boost in Mahableshwar Along with "2008-09: Food Safety and Quality Year," the

Mofpi (Ministry of Food Processing Industries) has decided to raise the rate of food processing from 6% to over 15% in the country. According to AISGA (All India Strawberry Growers Association), the current strawberry processing rate is about 20%, largest processed fruit in the country. Krishna Bhilari, vice-president, All India Strawberry Growers Association shares his views about the country's strawberry production, processing and its future in an exclusive interview with Food & Beverage News. Excerpts: What is the expected strawberry production this year? How has been the growth of strawberry cultivation in Mahableshwar? Last year, the total Indian strawberry production was over 14,000 tonnes, whereas due to un-seasonal rains and quick climate change we are expecting only 9,000 tonnes for this year. Mahableshwar has rich soil with all required components for the best strawberry cultivation in the country. In 1938, the first Australia-based strawberry variety cultivation took place under the British but that was of relatively low quality. In 1992, the farmers decided to import a new US-based variety, "Californian Strawberry," which contains about 200 outer seeds in one strawberry piece. The California variety is far better than the older version and also fetches more money in the national and international markets. What are the health benefits of Californian strawberry? How farmers have benefited from strawberry cultivation? Strawberries are one of the richest sources for vitamin C and the small outer seeds of the strawberry help remove toxin from the body. Today, we say strawberry is a cash crop as it offers over 90 harvests in a season of six months. Several people/ farmers are re-migrating from metros to grow strawberries in Mahableshwar. Last year, over 53 families re-migrated at Bhilar village in Satara district to cultivate strawberries. About 2,000 acres of land is under strawberry cultivation in Mahableshwar. Which are the leading strawberry producing areas in India and who are the leading strawberry processors in the country? Satara district (Mahableshwar & Panchgani) is the leading strawberry producing place registering over 80-85%, followed by Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Ratlam (MP) and Kunnoor (Karnataka). At present, there are about 28 fruit processing plants available in the country. Kissan, Mapro, Mother Dairy, Century, Malas, Manama, Karnataka-based Ken Agri-tech are the leading strawberry processors in India. Apart from strawberry is AISGA promoting any other local fruit? Yes, we are planning to cultivate and promote Mulberry and Raspberry (Red and Blue) from this year. At present, the price for raspberry is near Rs 80-100 per kg in the wholesale market. One acre farmland produces over 2.5 tonnes of raspberry. The expected production is about 30-35 tonnes per annum. In the coming season (June), we will be importing premium raspberry seeds from Holland and California to

cultivate in over 500 acres of land. We also seek to promote "Agro-tourism," by which we will be offering cottages in villages for the tourists. These cottages will offer fresh cooked Indian food, farm cultivated vegetables and fruits to plug and eat and present cultural activities for the tourists. Currently, we have over 50 rooms in Bhilar village of Mahableshwar.

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