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Ambuja Cement Foundation Aids West Bengal in Increasing Strawberry Production

by Rishika Choudhury

Date & Time: Jul 19, 2022 10:00 AM

Read Time: 3 minute

As many as 35 farmers in Farakka, West Bengal, have profited more than Rs.1 lakh each by switching to strawberry cultivation. Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF), the corporate social responsibility arm of Ambuja Cements Ltd., in collaboration with IndusInd Bank, introduced the crop to agrarians as part of a pilot project in 2020-21.

The foundation assisted in the establishment of the crop's infrastructure and in the training of farmers to grow the fruit. The intervention's goal was to increase farmers' income.

Because marketing was a priority on the agenda, the foundation launched a market survey. They began by visiting local retail fruit shops and markets and contacting shopping malls in outlying areas. It later began discussions across locations to investigate the market.

Considering that strawberry is a perishable product, the foundation scouted for a more tolerable variety that lasts long and offers improved yields. The farmers, it was observed, had become adept at growing strawberries.

ACF decided to scale up strawberry production

A year ago, some farmers were urged to take up strawberry cultivation and the learnings from it were that it could help them earn a lump sum within 2-3 months. As a result, ACF decided to scale up strawberry production. An order of 40,000 plants was placed for 35 farmers, with the number of plants ordered being four times last year.

Neeraj Akhoury, CEO of India Holcim and Managing Director & CEO of Ambuja Cements Ltd., said, “We observed that the people living in rural areas need greater access to economic development. This is more so in the case of our agrarians, a majority of who are fragmented and landless. The economic development of our farmers can end poverty in India’s hinterland. Our focus was to target farmers with assured irrigation and other facilities so that they can earn their livelihood.”

Laxmipur village fulfills the criteria of assured irrigation, where a plantation in a two-acre area tended by six farmers was started. Prior to this, the farmers were trained in soil preparation and management.

12,000 plants per acre are planted

The farmers planted up to 12,000 plants per acre. Plant spacing, use of polyethylene mulching, and application of liquid fertilizer, and vitamins through spray were ensured through intensive day-to-day monitoring.

After nurturing for over one month, the plants and the fruit in the plot matured, to which farmers expressed their surprise. In a week, strawberry production reached one quintal.

Farmers used to earn Rs.350 per kg for their produce. The farmers promoted and began selling strawberries in the local market as well as the adjacent district markets of Malda and Raniganj on a daily basis. 

During January and mid-February, production peaked at 50 kg per day.

As temperatures increased in the summer months, production gradually declined. The farmers are currently producing 450 kg of strawberries per 0.33 acre on average, with each farmer making a profit of around Rs.1 lakh.

In total, 158 quintals of the fruit were grown that netting a profit of Rs.39.62 lakh. The bulk of the profits was made from November to February. The farmers are now demanding additional plants and ACF has assured to supply them with 1 lakh plants for the upcoming season.

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