Pune: As the nationwide coronavirus lockdown completes more than a month and numbers of COVID-19 patients in the state are increasing every day, strawberries farmers of Mahabaleshwar of Satara district are uncertain whether they will be able to import the mother plants from countries like Spain, Italy and Egypt this year for strawberry production. But due to COVID-19, everything has become standstill.
Restrictions on Imports
“The Motherplant for the strawberry production is imported from countries like America, Italy, Spain, Egypt and others every year. The mother plant should come by June before monsoon and thereafter runners (offsprings) are produced by August which further used in cultivation for the production of strawberries,” said Balasaheb Bhilare, President, All India Strawberries Growers Association
He further said, “However, with international flights not operational due to the pandemic and cases are increasing every day. Due to this reason, we are uncertain that whether we will be able to get the mother plant and do the production this year as without the mother plant it is unlikely that there will be any production of the strawberries.”
20 L Mother plant imported every year
Bhilare also informed that strawberries are grown in Mahabaleshwar are mostly from Italy, Spain and California. An estimated area of around 3500 hectares in places like Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani and Wai are under strawberry cultivation and as many as 3000-4000 small and big farmers are part of it. He further informed that on an average 20 lakh mother plants are imported every year for the production of strawberries.
Bhilare further mentioned that the extended rainfall had damaged last year strawberry crops and this year also the uncertainty is looming on the strawberry production due to the lockdown. He said, “Last year, Mahabaleshwar received 10000 mm of rainfall that damaged a lot of crops and affected the farmers very badly. This year, farmers were hopeful for the production but due to the pandemic, firstly the market was closed and now there is uncertainty about the mother plant as flights are not functional. However, we understand that the situation is unfavourable and not much can be done but this is hitting the farmers very badly.”
However, as per the state commissionerate of agriculture, the export and import of agricultural commodity are functional. Shirish Jamdade, Joint Director of Agriculture (Horticulture) said, “The export and import of agricultural produce is functional with the help of cargo flight as it is exempted from the lockdown. However, the situation remains same in the future and if the farmers have any requirement of importing mother plant for the production will be taken care of and in case if they face any problem, they can always connect with us.”