Strawberry Cultivation – Costs, Profit & Yield per acre
Strawberry is one of the highly profitable cash crops n parts of India. It can be grown in parts of India where weather and soil conditions are suitable. With diverse climatic conditions in India, farmers can’t cultivate strawberry all over India but there are select locations where strawberry thrives. Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, and Rajasthan are states which produce strawberries in India. Note that only some parts of each of the states are suitable for strawberry cultivation save Himachal Pradesh.
Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra is known to be one of the largest cultivators of strawberries and farmers make a huge profit during the seasons selling strawberries in small and large outlets. Nainital and Dehradun in Uttarakhand, Kashmir valley, Bangalore in Karnataka, and Kalimpong in West Bengal are known to be the other few hubs for Strawberry cultivation.
Places, where strawberry cultivation has been researched in a closed, contained environment, include Tamil Nadu, Kerala. Commercial cultivation of strawberries is not well established in Kerala and Tamil Nadu except for some parts in the Nilgiri hills. Strawberry requires a subtropical weather condition. For best growth conditions the daytime temperature is noted to be 22 degrees and not higher with nighttime temperature to be 13 degrees celsius and not lower. Winter drives the plant to dormancy and flowering and growth are delayed. Growth and flowering are noted to be high in spring.
Strawberry cultivation Basic requirements
Strawberry cultivation in India has gained popularity in recent years due to increasing demand for this delicious fruit. Although strawberries are traditionally grown in temperate regions, certain parts of India provide suitable conditions for successful cultivation. Here are some key aspects of strawberry cultivation in India:
- Climate: Strawberries thrive in cool and temperate climates, making the hilly regions of North India and parts of the Western Ghats ideal for cultivation. The plants require a chilling period of 200-300 hours at temperatures below 7°C to stimulate flower bud formation.
- Soil: Well-drained soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5 is preferred for strawberry cultivation. Sandy loam or loamy soil types are suitable. The soil should be rich in organic matter, and proper drainage is essential to prevent waterlogging.
- Varieties: Several strawberry varieties can be cultivated in India, including Chandler, Sweet Charlie, Camarosa, and Festival. It’s important to choose varieties that are adapted to the local climate and have good disease resistance.
- Propagation: Strawberries can be propagated through seeds or runners. Runners are the most common method of propagation. These are horizontal stems that emerge from the mother plant and develop into new plants when they come in contact with the soil. They are usually transplanted during the cooler months.
- Planting: The ideal time for planting strawberries in most parts of India is between September and November. Raised beds or ridges are created to improve drainage. Proper spacing is crucial to allow air circulation and prevent diseases. Generally, plants are spaced about 30-45 cm apart, with rows spaced around 60-90 cm apart.
- Irrigation: Strawberry plants require regular and adequate irrigation, especially during the flowering and fruiting stages. Drip irrigation is recommended as it delivers water directly to the roots and minimizes the risk of disease. Overhead sprinklers should be avoided to prevent wetting the foliage excessively.
- Fertilization: Regular fertilization is necessary for healthy plant growth and optimum fruit production. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the primary nutrients required. Organic fertilizers, such as well-rotted cow dung or compost, can be applied before planting. Additional nitrogen-based fertilizers can be applied during the growing season.
- Pest and disease management: Common pests that affect strawberries include aphids, thrips, mites, and fruit flies. Diseases like powdery mildew, gray mold, and crown rot can also be problematic. Integrated pest management (IPM) techniques, including the use of biological control agents, cultural practices, and judicious application of pesticides, should be implemented.
- Harvesting: Depending on the variety, strawberries are typically ready for harvest 4-6 weeks after flowering. Fruits should be plucked carefully to avoid damage. They should be fully ripe before picking for the best flavor and quality. Regular harvesting encourages the development of new fruits.
- Marketing: With increasing demand for strawberries in India, marketing opportunities have expanded. Local markets, supermarkets, and online platforms can be utilized for selling the produce. Direct marketing to restaurants, bakeries, and food processors can also be explored.
Strawberry Growing areas in India
- Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra: Mahabaleshwar, located in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, is often referred to as the “Strawberry Capital of India.” The region’s cool climate and fertile soil make it ideal for strawberry cultivation. Mahabaleshwar produces a significant amount of strawberries, and many strawberry festivals and farm visits are organized here.
- Panchgani, Maharashtra: Another popular strawberry-growing region in Maharashtra is Panchgani, located close to Mahabaleshwar. The cool temperatures and favorable soil conditions contribute to the successful cultivation of strawberries in this area.
- Nainital, Uttarakhand: Nainital, a picturesque hill station in Uttarakhand, has emerged as a significant hub for strawberry cultivation. The region’s cool climate and suitable topography support strawberry production. Farmers in Nainital and nearby areas have successfully established strawberry farms.
- Manali, Himachal Pradesh: Known for its breathtaking landscapes, Manali in Himachal Pradesh has also ventured into strawberry cultivation. The cool and temperate climate of the region, along with proper soil management, has led to successful strawberry production in this area.
- Ooty, Tamil Nadu: Ooty, situated in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu, is renowned for its favorable climate for horticulture. Strawberry cultivation has gained prominence in Ooty due to its moderate temperatures and suitable soil conditions.
- Dehradun, Uttarakhand: Dehradun, the capital city of Uttarakhand, has witnessed a rise in strawberry cultivation. The region’s cool climate and availability of skilled labor have contributed to the establishment of successful strawberry farms.
- Bangalore, Karnataka: While not a traditional strawberry-growing region, the outskirts of Bangalore have seen an increase in strawberry cultivation. The region’s moderate climate, availability of infrastructure, and proximity to urban markets make it attractive for strawberry farmers.
Strawberry exports and Challenges
- Export Markets: Indian strawberries are primarily exported to countries in the Middle East, Europe, and Southeast Asia. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and Singapore are among the major importers of Indian strawberries.
- Export Varieties: India cultivates several strawberry varieties that are suitable for export. Popular export varieties include Chandler, Sweet Charlie, Camarosa, and Festival. These varieties are known for their taste, appearance, and ability to withstand transportation.
- Quality Standards: To meet international quality standards and ensure acceptance in export markets, strawberries for export undergo strict quality control measures. This includes adherence to proper hygiene practices, compliance with pesticide residue limits, and adherence to the maximum allowable limits for microbial contaminants.
- Packaging and Transportation: Strawberries destined for export are carefully packed to maintain their freshness and quality during transportation. The berries are usually packed in punnets, clamshells, or trays that provide protection and prevent damage. Cold chain logistics are crucial to maintain the strawberries’ freshness, and they are transported in refrigerated trucks or containers.
- Market Access and Certification: To export strawberries from India, exporters need to comply with the phytosanitary requirements and regulations of the importing countries. This may involve obtaining necessary certifications, such as the Phyto Sanitary Certificate, GlobalGAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification, and other relevant export documentation.
- Export Promotion: The Indian government, through various agencies such as the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), promotes the export of agricultural products, including strawberries. APEDA provides support in terms of market intelligence, trade fairs, and assistance in meeting international quality standards.
- Challenges: Despite the potential for strawberry exports, there are certain challenges that need to be addressed. These include maintaining consistent quality and quantity, improving post-harvest infrastructure and cold chain facilities, and addressing market access barriers imposed by importing countries.
Key Facts on Growing strawberry
- Strawberry prefers a temperature between 13 -22 Degree celsius. A minimum of 8 hours of full sun is required for better fruiting and flowering. The growth of the plant depends on both, weather and temperature.
- Strawberry is not finicky about soil but a Sandy loam or Loam soil is best suited for the cultivation of strawberries.
- Strawberry is perineal, the first-year yield should be avoided as much as possible and the flowers should be nipped off to prevent the plant from fruiting. Fruiting will cause the plant to shunt and the resources will be put to growing the fruit. Pinching the flowers will promote root and plant growth, this, in turn, will improve the yield in the second year.
- Strawberry plants will stay dormant in winter, especially when the temperature drops below 6 degrees Celsius at night. It is important to care for plants at this stage with proper mulching and deter pests like slugs. The plants will start full growth again once the temperature returns to normal.
- There is a wide range of varieties available in the market today. Chandler, Tioga, Torrey, Selva, Belrubi, Fern, and Pajaro are some of the common varieties available in India. Chandler is the most common and the highest yielding variety with Tioga in the second.
- Strawberry roots are shallow and require constant moisture. It is not drought tolerant and care should be taken not to let the root dry. Overwatering is also a concern and may cause root rot and other diseases. Keeping the soil moist and not wet or too damp is key to preventing diseases and improving plant growth.
- An average yield of 8 Tonnes per acre is excellent. Yield up to 20 tonnes per acre have been recorded in some areas during peak season.
Profit from strawberry Farming
Strawberry farming is one of the most profitable farming businesses with average returns of up to 4 Lakh 75 Thousand (Rs.475000) Per acre. The profit is far higher than most other crops. The data is based on the research conducted in Hisar and Bhiwani districts in Haryana in the year 2015-16 among a range of farmers, small-medium, and large.
Factors affecting the profit primarily include
- Costs of runners. : the cost of runners was noted to be the highest. When it came to setting up the farm. Approximately 1 Lakh 30 thousand rupees was spent on runners alone. The unavailability of runners and transportation of good runners from Himachal Pradesh costs more. Local varieties are often unreliable and the desired quantity is not available when required.
- In the marketing stage, the packing and packaging material costs approximately 65% after the production stage and contributes to approximately 78,000 Rs. Proper packaging material is key for protecting the fruits while transportation. Buying in bulk is often cost-effective enabling farmers to save. But with large quantities comes the hassle of storing the packaging material in a safe place if unused.
- Cost of maintenance: In areas where winter goes below 6 degrees celsius, it is important to protect the crops. A low tunnel system is mandatory for plant protection. This is an extra cost for colder areas. The usual drip irrigation and fencing to prevent animals and pests also add to the cost in some areas.
Strawberry farm Expenses
|Land Preparation costs|
An average cost of 4.5 Lakh rupees to 5 Lakh rupees is to be expected in expenditure the first year to start a strawberry farm. Smaller farms incur more expenses, especially in the irrigation area. Larger farms incur more in fencing and costs of runners.
Yield Per acre of a strawberry farm.
Strawberries are high-yielding crops. They produce approximately 6.5 tonnes of product per acre. The average price of the fruit is around 120 while the fruit could cost anywhere between 180-300 rs in the market per kilo. The price fluctuates depending on the season. Even with an average of 120 Rs per kilo, farmers can expect a Gross revenue of 8 Lakh Rupees approximately. The first-year net profit can be anywhere from 3-3.5 Lakh rupees. The profit for the second year is far more than the first year with costs of fencing, irrigation setup, and other non-recurring expenses out of the way. The profits per acre are noted to be over 5 Lakh rupees from the second year onwards.