Mahabaleshwar (Maharashtra), March 23 : Mahabaleshwar, the hill station of Maharashtra, recently attracted huge crowds for its annual Strawberry festival that was held here for two days.
The festival that started on Thursday (March 20) this year proved a major draw, as a stream of tourists from across India and abroad made a beeline to relish the orchard's fresh strawberry and its products here.
Mahabaleshwar region is the largest producer of strawberry in India.
The first timers regretted on not being aware about the strawberry festival all these years. But they promised to visit here again every year during this time.
"I did not know about such kinds of festivals and if these are going to take place every year, I am going to come here annually and eat these strawberries. They are extremely rich in taste and very delicious," said Manoj, one tourist.
The objective was to invite tourists to taste the farm fresh strawberries and also promote the fruit as a healthy nutrient.
"This is the last spell of Strawberry Festival and this festival has been celebrated to attract the tourists," said Nikunj Vohra, a Manager with Mapro Strawberry Farm at the Strawberry festival.
The production of the fruit has been increasingly encouraging. It is also exported to various countries.
"Presently, 1,350 farmers have been cultivating the fruit in 34 villages in Mahabaleshwar who have produced 13,000 metric tonnes. We export the frozen strawberries to Belgium, France, Sri Lanka and Australia. Moreover, with the coming up of the Malls and corporate sector, it has benefited us as well as the farmers," said Bakasaheb Bhilare, a strawberry grower.
The festival was organised by farmers in association with Mapro Company that owns strawberry farms and also manufactures ice creams.
Mahabaleshwar is a municipal council of State's Satara District. It is a hill station located in the Western Ghats range. With one of the few evergreen forests of the world, it served as the summer capital of Bombay province during the British Raj.
Located about 120 kilometers southwest of Pune and 285 km from Mumbai, Mahabaleshwar is a vast plateau measuring 150 kilometres.