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A ‘sweet’ stand-off over strawberries

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By Our Reporter

Strawberries
in plastic packaging sold by a street vendor at Khyndai Lad, on Wednesday. (ST)

SHILLONG, May 1: Strawberries, along with other local fruits, have long been a staple in Shillong’s markets. Now, in collaboration between the Horticulture department and the Tourism department, a special strawberry market has been established in Khyndai Lad.
Following the success of the recent strawberry festival held earlier this month in various villages, the horticulture department, in collaboration with the Meghalaya tourism department, is now conducting a strawberry market.
The market will run until May 3 between 12 noon and 8 pm at Khyndai Lad and it features three stalls and a stage solely dedicated to the Meghalaya Grassroots Music Project (MGMP) performers.
In addition to fresh strawberries, the stalls are selling other products such as jams and softie cones, while the strawberries packed in boxes marked with the logo of Meghalaya Collectives, are priced at Rs 100 per pack.
But the local vendors who have been selling the fruit on the roads of Khyndai Lad for years contest that there is no distinguishing whatsoever the tastes of the strawberries sold at the Strawberry Market and by them.
A farmer from Umroi, selling strawberries near the MUDA parking lot, who had an entire lot left unsold, said, “The prices there are fixed but with me if you take more than one, I will reduce the prices for you.”
He grows strawberries on his farm near Umroi airport, and he said, “There is no difference in taste in the strawberries being sold there and the ones here.”
While strawberries have been sold in and around Khyndai Lad for years, primarily in plastic packaging by farmers from the surrounding areas, the market just offers a more organised setting under the idea of bringing in the strawberry produce from places like Syntung and Nohron.
Despite this, concern about the inclusion of long-standing vendors, often perceived as mere hawkers, in such festivals and markets prevails.

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