SRINAGAR: Six-year-ago, Mohammad Amin Bhat would grow apples on his two kanals of land at Repora in Ganderbal district and earn between Rs 50,000 to Rs 70,000 a year. In 2016, Bhat switched to cultivating grapes on his one kanal of land to get better returns.
“Fruit started coming out in 2018. I earn Rs 3 lakh annually from grape production on one kanal of land which is six times better than I fetch from apples. I earn Rs 50,000 from apple production, which I grow on one kanal of land,” Bhat, father of two daughters, said.
Low prices and extensive hard work were the main reasons why Bhat made the switch from apple.
“Apples are grown across Kashmir and there is a huge competition. While grapes have a better market and prices as a small percentage of farmers are associated with this fruit,” Bhat said.
Like Bhat, there are hundreds of farmers in the Ganderbal district who have started growing grapes over the years.
Repora village in Ganderbal district has created a niche for cultivating quality grapes over the years. It is now being called the “grapes village of Kashmir”.
In Kashmir as per the official figures of Horticulture Department, the grapes are cultivated on over 400 hectares of land and production goes up to 1,600 MT (Metric Tonnes) every year.
In Ganderbal district alone, the grapes according to official figures were cultivated on 199 hectares during 2020-2021 which rose to 201 hectares in 2021-2022 with the production of 1048 MT and 1205 MT respectively. Of which, the production of Repora village alone is over 800 MT.
Grapes are usually ready for harvest in August or till early September.
Habibullah Magrey, a 51-year-old farmer and Sarpanch of Repora said there are 800 villagers in this village and over 80 percent farmers are cultivating grapes.
“Villagers of other areas across Kashmir especially in Ganderbal are also switching towards this fruit to get better returns. This is a more profitable crop than other fruits like apples,” Magray said, who also owns over 20 kanals of land on which he cultivates other fruits including apples.
However, Magray, who earns Rs 3.5 lakh annually from grapes, said some keep it in earthen pots and cover with mud to preserve the fruit.
“Bringing a lot of earthen pots and then putting grapes and covering them with mud to increase its life is a hectic process. There is an immediate need for cold storage facilities in Ganderbal so we can store and keep this fruit at least till November,” he said.
The Repora area is famous for cultivating top grades of grapes like Sahiba, Hussaini, Anabeshai which are being sold in various markets of the valley.
“The grapes which we grow here are not sufficient to meet the demand in Kashmir. The farmers sell grapes in Mandis and then they are being supplied to different places across the valley. When the harvesting season is at peak, customers in large numbers from across Kashmir come to this village to buy the fruit. Besides, grapes are also imported from various parts of the country to meet the valley’s demand,” he said. (KINS)