By Our Reporter
Shillong: It is the season for the Northeast’s wonder fruit – strawberry.
The Strawberry Festival 2012 that was held at the U Soso Tham Auditorium in the city generated much enthusiasm among the city folks. The function was inaugurated by Governor RS Mooshahary and was attended by a large number of local residents and villagers from other parts of the State.
Several stalls set up by Zopar, VLCC, Bread Café, Hallmark, Megberry, Nongtluh Women Farmers’ Shillong, RBSGA, Lulu Wines etc., drew huge crowd. Besides, there were also stalls set up to provide refreshments to the strawberry cultivators and the other visitors.
“The government is helping us through various schemes,” said Angelbert Makdoh, a strawberry cultivator, while expressing her appreciation to the government for support to the strawberry farmers.
Another cultivator, Francis Dkhar said, “The government provides us with seeds, machinery and fertilizers.”
Queries about the various challenges faced by the cultivators revealed that hailstorms, ants, pests, water scarcity, lack of fertilizers etc., pose major hindrances to strawberry cultivation in the State.
Among the strawberry success stories in the State, one notable example is the story of Sohliya village, where most of the villagers are engaged in strawberry cultivation. Villagers are serving as guides, caterers and support staff for tourists and are also creating a new market for their strawberries. This cultivation has benefitted the villagers enormously and approximately 25 per cent to 50 per cent of strawberry growers have profited from it.
It has also helped the villagers create a niche for themselves in the international market through the export of the fruit to countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.
General Secretary of Ri Bhoi Strawberry Growers’ Association, O Lyngkhoi said, “Around 200 villagers are involved in strawberry production but it much depends on the materials we receive. The government is providing us with subsidy, planting materials, packaging, and infrastructure such as poly houses etc.”
He added that the seasonal production of the fruit varies between 200 tonnes to 250 tonnes.
A notable aspect of the function was the launch of a new brand called ‘Megberry’ under which strawberry juice and strawberry chews will be marketed.
The brand has been created by the Ri Bhoi Strawberry Growers’ Association (RBSGA) in technical collaboration with the State Directorate of Horticulture.
Other highlights of the programme included performance by a musical band which entertained the spectators and added more zeal to the show.