Meghalaya, largest producer of strawberry in N-E

Shillong: Meghalaya is the largest producer of strawberry in the North-East and is the sixth largest producer of the `fruit of love` in the entire country, officials said today.

Lauding the government`s effort to promote the people`s livelihood, Governor R S Mooshahary said cultivation of strawberry serves two purposes. "One is for promoting wealth but alongside this horticultural crop contains lots of nutritional properties which is good for health. The concept of strawberry cultivation by the farmers should not be concentrated only for commercial purposes but should also leave aside some for their children to get the advantage of health nutrients that fruit has," he said.

The Governor who is a strawberry grower himself has produced about 100 kg of strawberry at the Raj Bhavan campus. "Meghalaya has enormous potentials in term of horticultural produce and the state will not only be famous for the clouds and rains but soon it will become popular of its horticultural products," Mooshahary said.

"Strawberry cultivation has contributed a lot to the welfare of the people and has to a larger extent increase the living and economic standards of the farmers in term of health care and education," Director of Horticulture C O Rngad said at a Strawberry Festival organised by the strawberry farmers association here.

He said, "some of these enterprising farmers earned up to 6 figure income which is a major boon to the state of Meghalaya," adding that the demand for this fruit has tremendously increased over the years."

Strawberry has been at the heart of a horticultural revolution in this northeastern state, generating a windfall for small-scale farmers especially in Ri-Bhoi district. A festival aimed at promoting the cash crop, a Strawberry festival was today organized to create awareness on its cultivation, marketing, processing and the economic potentialities that strawberry has.

The introduction of strawberry into the state has truly been a blessing for the farmers of Ri Bhoi with villages like Sohliya, Umran, Umktieh, Umsaitsning and Raitong which are reaping the economic benefits of this cultivation.

Though strawberries were grown on a very small scale in Meghalaya about 15 years ago, the fruit was never taken up for commercial production until ten years back.
From then on, several festivals and shows were organised to promote the utility of this horticultural produce.

According to the official, Meghalaya has about 25 Ha of land under strawberry cultivation. While highlighting the major problems faced by the farmer due to non-availability of planting materials which resulted in failure to meet the demand, Rangad said the department has proposed strawberry planting material hubs under the 12th plan to increase strawberry productions in the state.

Further, the government has also adopted a new in-house technology to promote strawberry by-products by coming up with a brand name – Meg-berries- which includes juices and eatable items.

Meghalaya is exploring to add more villages under strawberry cultivation in collaboration with the State Bank of India and the state eyes a production of 500 MT from the current production of over 250 MT a year.