Various varieties of grapes such as Sahibi, Kishmish, Husseini, Thomson, and others are grown by grape growers on hundreds of kanals of land.
The Lar block in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district is known for its abundant grape production; nevertheless, the harsh weather and lockdown have damaged the harvests over the past two years.
Hundreds of canals of land in Repora, Watlar, and other parts of the Lar block are used to grow various grape varieties such as Sahibi, Kishmish, Husseini, Thomson, and others.
Hussani imported from Iran and Sahibi imported from Hyderabad are two prominent varieties produced in the area.
‘Bountiful grapes are a blessing of Sufi saints’
The people credit the area’s bountiful grapes to Sufi saints Shah Sahib Qalander and Shah Namatulah Wali’s blessings.
According to the locals, the grapes of Repora rose to prominence when they were given to the Maharaja Rai Bahadur Thakur Janak Sing’s Military General, who later built a bungalow, the ruins of which can still be seen at Bungli Bagh.
In the market, Repora grapes usually earned a fair price, with Sahibi fetching Rs 200 kg and Hussani fetching Rs 100 kg.
J&K Horticulture Department also part in enhancing production
Also, J&K Horticulture Department has developed Mode vineyard, Kralbagh in Lar block, which has the highest production. In this yard, grapes are grown on 188 hectares of land, with an annual yield of 385 metric tonnes.
Every year, the Horticulture Department rents out the whole yard to contractors for cultivation.
Last two years have been hard for the growers
Ironically, for the second year in a row, contractors and other private growers who have benefited from government initiatives are complaining about a bad market owing to the pandemic of COVID-19.
A villager, Mohammad Subhan told Digpu News that their harvest (grapes) has been affected for the previous two years due to terrible weather and the consequent lockdown induced by the outbreak of novel Coronavirus.
“Majority of the crop has been damaged,” Subhan rued while adding that the officials from the Horticulture Department also paid a visit to the property. He remarked, “We are grateful for the Director of Horticulture who came here two times within a single week.”
Government help sought by the fruit growers
The farmers are suffering from emotional stress and are seeking government assistance, as it has done for other fruit growers in the region.
However, the growers have asked the Director to explore options for enabling them to ship their produce to various states, like apple crop is sent to outside Mandis.