This article proposes a medium size strawberry farming unit, over a land area of five acres. The approximate total time from land preparation to harvesting is around 06 months. Main varieties of strawberries cultivated in Pakistan are: Chandelier, Corona, Douglas, Tufts, Gorella and Toro. Strawberry requires a well-drained medium loam soil, rich in organic matter. The soil should be slightly acidic with pH from 5.8-6.5. At higher pH root formation is poor. The presence of excessive calcium in the soil causes yellowing of the leaves. Strawberry should not be cultivated in the same land for a number of years. It is preferable to plant it in green manure field. Alkaline soils and soils infected with nematodes should be avoided.
Initial cost for growing strawberry is estimated at Rs. 0.8 million. It is generally cultivated on ridges where 30,000 – 40,000 seedlings are transplanted. Seeds are mainly procured from Swat, Pashin and Mingora and are available at Rs 1.0-1.5 per plant. The estimated yield potential of the farm varies from 3-4 tons per acre.
Factors for Success of Strawberry Farming in Pakistan
The main critical success factors that affect the decision to invest in the strawberry farming business are:
- Fertile land and its maintenance during the period of cultivation.
- Special attention towards healthy and certified seeds, land preparation, sowing pattern, water management, fertilizer application and marketing is required.
- Timely control of pests, diseases and implementation of all recommended agronomic measures.
- Appropriate post-harvest arrangement for washing, grading, packing and transportation of product to the market.
- Use of high quality hybrid seeds.
- Proper soil analysis for determining soil nutritional level.
- Farming should be done scientific grounds, taking care of input requirements and pest management techniques.
Technology: Generally, strawberry is cultivated on ridges at fertile soil with suitable drainage quality. For this purpose farm land of Indus basin is yielding fruitful results. Seedlings are transplanted on ridges and crop is irrigated on weekly or on need bases.
Location: In Pakistan strawberry is being cultivated successfully in plains of Ghotki, Panu Akil, Ranipur, Shaheed Benazirabad, Gilgit Chitral, Kaghan Kohistan, Swat, Mingora, Multan, Narowal, Bhawalpur, Chishtian, Sialkot, Faisalabad and many other areas of Pakistan.
Product: The proposed project would initially produce 18 tons of strawberry and will be sold to retailer and wholesellers in packed form.
Target Market: The target customers will be whole sellers and retailers catering for household markets in Pakistan including local markets in Sukkur, Karachi, Hyderabad, and other districts of Sindh and Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab, different areas of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Employment Generation: The proposed project will provide direct employment to 07 people (contractual + salaried). Financial analysis shows the
unit shall be profitable from the very first year of operation.
Strawberry Cultivation Process in Pakistan
Site and Soil: Strawberries will grow on all kinds of soils, ranging from light sands and gravels to clay, however they do benefit from being grown in raised beds on poor or heavy soils where the addition of organic matter will not only improve the soil but aid drainage.
Ploughing: The first step for Strawberry cultivation is ploughing. The primary purpose of ploughing is to turn over the upper layer of the soil, bringing fresh nutrients to the surface, while burying weeds and the remains of previous crops and allowing them to break down.
Ridge Preparation: Strawberries can be cultivated on raised beds of 04-05 inch high in the center after firming down and 24 inch wide should be constructed. The ridge should have an even curve and the soil broken down to a fine tilt which have the following advantages over conventional growing:
- They reduce the risk of water logging and soil-borne diseases.
- They increase the available rooting depth on shallow soils.
- They warm up quickly and so produce early crops.
These advantages in turn lead to higher yields.
Seed Bed Preparation: In next step Seed Bed is prepared. The soil of a seed bed needs to be loose and smoothed, without large lumps and are needed so that seeds can be planted easily, large lumps and uneven surface would tend to make the planting depth random.
Soil Fertilizing: Fertilizers are sprinkled in next step. Plants need to be fertilized because most soil does not provide the essential nutrients required for optimum growth.
Seedling Transplanting: Seeds are grown separately in pots into young plants, so they can then transplant into the cultivation land. The distance between the rows should be 30-36 inches and the distance between the plants should be 12-16 inches.
Weed Control: Weeds are plants that grow where they are not wanted. Weeding keeps weeds from robbing valuable nutrients from the soil and competing with desired flowers, vegetables, herbs and shrubs. Weeds can also shelter harmful insects and diseases.
Pest Control: Insects can be controlled by preventive measures more easily than the use of chemicals, rotation of strawberry with other crops is useful in controlling insects.
Top Dress Fertilizing: In order to get maximum benefit from manures and fertilizers, they should not only be applied in proper time and in right manner but any other aspects should also be given careful consideration. Different soils react differently with fertilizer application, the nutrient requirements are not the same at different stages of growth.
Irrigation: Since strawberry is relatively shallow-rooted, it is susceptible to conditions of drought. It is necessary to ensure that newly planted runners are irrigated frequently after planting, otherwise the mortality of the plants become high.
Harvesting: Strawberries are ready for picking when the fruits develops color to that shade of red which is characteristic of that particular variety. They are best picked at this stage for eating fresh, freezing and making into jam; they will keep very satisfactorily for forty-eight hours in a domestic refrigerator at a temperature of 2°C (35°F).
Grading and Packing: Strawberries are then sorted into grades according to their quality and packed accordingly. They should only be picked into shallow containers, because by using deeper ones, the lower fruits will be bruised by the weight of fruit above pressing down on them.
Shipment / Dispatch: Strawberries are highly perishable and hence a great deal of care in handling and marketing also requires to be organized carefully. Usually the fruit is packed in the early morning and sent to the market in the afternoon of the same day or is picked in the late afternoon, stored overnight in a cool place, and sent to the market the following morning.
Financial Requirements for Strawberry Farming in Pakistan
A detailed financial model has been developed to analyze the commercial viability of this project. Various costs and revenue related assumptions along with results of the analysis are outlined. All the figures in this financial model have been calculated for estimated sales of Rs. 2.4 million in the year one. The capacity utilization during year one is worked out at 100%. Complete financials can be studied in the pre-feasibility study of strawberry farming in Pakistan by SMEDA.