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India: Pre-cooling units help strawberry farmers in Maharashtra

The establishment of a fruit pre-cooling unit by an enterprising farmer in Mahabaleshwar, which is known as the strawberry belt of Maharashtra, could be a huge boost to farmers in the region. Until now, despite strong demand from other states, farmers in the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani belt were unable to cater to these requirements since this is a perishable fruit and has a shelf life of barely two days. Thanks to the new unit established by Kisan Bhilare, president, Mahabaleshwar Cooperative Fruits, Flowers and Vegetable Buyer Seller Association at neighbouring Wai, several farmers have begun to benefit.

After initial success with a small pre-cooling unit set up at a local school in Mahabaleshwar, using funds from the Bhilar Gram Panchayat funds, Bhilare decided that this was not enough and more needed to be done. He invested in a four-tonne pre-cooling unit at Wai following demand from several corporates and traders. Because of this unit, farmers can now store their strawberries here without fear of the fruit going bad. With the pre-cooling and blast freeze facilities, the shelf life of strawberry has gone up to four days. The facility is offered on a lease of `5 per kg for four hours and currently four tons are being processed on a daily basis, Bhilare said. quoted Bhilare as saying that demand has come from Big Bazaar, Big Basket, Reliance Fresh and traders from the Jharkhand, Kolkata, Guwahati and Delhi while Jaipur has shown interest in procuring strawberries. Strawberries are now sent by air to Delhi, Guwahati, Kolkata and Jharkhand and by road to Hyderabad, Goa and Benguluru.

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