There was a time when strawberry was rarely seen in shops but now, one can come across more people buying the delicious fruit known for its taste and health benefits.
The fruit is now easily available at shops, milkshake corners and carts and is expensive as other fruits of the season.
A nutritionist said that strawberry is well-known as the most appetizing and nutritious fruit and it is one of the potential sources of protein, carbohydrates, fats and vitamin.
Nowadays, retail prices of this fruit are in the range of Rs 140 to 180 per kg. The strawberry supply starts at the end of January and continues until the end of May each year in the country.
Cultivation of strawberry is a good cash earning opportunity for the farmers as more of them are replacing it with traditional crops in different areas of Pakistan to get higher return.
In Pakistan, it is consumed in fresh form as well as in processed form for making squashes, jams and jellies which can be used throughout the year.
According to agricultural experts, the profit earned by the farmers from strawberry is about four times higher than sugarcane and about nine times higher than the wheat crop.
An expert said that the extra profit that can be expected from strawberry cultivation is leading maximum growers along the River Chenab to abandon traditional crops. He said that it has a vast potential due to the varied climatic conditions that are favourable to its growth.
Usually along the riverine belt of the river only wheat and vegetables were cultivated in the past for many generations.
However, it has been changing in the last few years. “Some eight years ago, farmers hailing from the upper Punjab started the cultivation of strawberry after acquiring land on lease from locals. But for the last four years, locals have also started to cultivate the crop after comparing the profit margin of traditional crops and the strawberry crop,” he said.
He said that small farmers were struggling to get involved in the cultivation as the start up costs were prohibitive, but middlemen had started to offer loans to farmers.
“The profit against per acre is more than the input cost which is encouraging farmers to cultivate strawberry,” he said.
“Now the formers are cultivating wheat only for their own need,” he said. He said the strawberry was an exotic fruit for the area, but now it was being cultivated on a large scale throughout the country, including Mingora, Swat, Lahore, Multan, Muzaffargarh and some cities of Sindh.