Flagging agriculture, horticulture and floriculture among the key economic sectors for Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti today said the State Government is working through multifaceted strategy to change the dynamics of these crucial sectors for better production and returns.
“While various interventions are being made by the Government to ensure quality fruit production, the new generation of horticulturists and floriculturists should create a unified online marketing facility were they would directly sell their produce to the buyers in any part of the country and the world to earn good returns,” the Chief Minister said while replying to the discussion on Demand for Grants of Horticulture and Floriculture Departments in the Legislative Assembly today.
Ms Mehbooba said the horticulture, floriculture and vegetables offer immense economic opportunities for the people especially the educated youth, who with the help of latest communication techniques, can give a global face to J&K’s horticulture and floriculture produce through vast network of online markets. “Online trading of J&K’s fruits, vegetables and flowers in national and international markets can fetch huge economic returns to the growers and the State,” she said and added that J&K has to redouble its will and strategy to ensure quality produce which will compete with its counterparts globally.
Referring to the difficult times Kashmir went through in the past two-and-a-half decades, the Chief Minister credited the fruit growers in horticulture sector and craftsmen in the handicraft industry for sustaining the state’s struggling economy. She said it would not be out of place to say that horticulture and handicrafts have a bigger potential for the State than the tourism sector. “As per the official records 14.79 lakh MTs of fresh and dry fruit valuing about Rs 6000 crore were exported from J&K during 2015-16,” she said and added that the area under fruits has increased from 2.95 lakh hectares in 2007-08 to 3.57 lakh hectares in 2015-16.
The Chief Minister said two Centres of Excellence on vegetable production would be established in Jammu and Srinagar to facilitate the vegetable growers and women entrepreneurs. “These will be in addition to the two Centres of Excellence already announced to be established in horticulture sector,” she said.
Referring to the losses suffered by the horticulturalists and agriculturists because of the nature’s vagaries, the Chief Minister said that the growers whose crops are damaged by hailstorm shall be compensated through Market Intervention and Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yojana (PFBY).
Ms Mehbooba said various Central and State Sector schemes would be integrated to promote off-season and protected cultivation of vegetables for production of high value and export-oriented hybrid seeds. She also called for promotion of organic vegetable production with market linkages which have a very high demand across the globe.
Urging the fruit growers to shift to high-density plantation, Ms Mehbooba said the move will open up new vistas of employment and income generation for nearly six lakh youth over the next 15 years. “Government will diversify horticulture and floriculture activities by adopting newer techniques and best practices to survive the onslaught of emerging markets in and outside the country,” she said.
Hailing the efforts of enterprising youngsters in diversifying and bringing new ideas in the revenue-generating horticulture sector, Ms Mehbooba said change won’t come unless fruit growers are convinced about the benefits of rejuvenating their orchards by high-density farming and other scientific techniques.
Calling upon the farming community to join the pursuit of making Kashmir the ‘Fruit Valley of the World’, Ms Mehbooba said if only 20 percent of our orchards take up high-density farming over the next five years, the Rs 4000 crore industry will expand five times to a staggering Rs 20,000 crore.
She said to promote focused horticulture activities in various areas of the State, Mango village is to be established at Khour-Mallapoda on 100 hectares of land covering 47 beneficiaries. Likewise another Mango village will be established in Akhnoor-Sungli on 100 hectares of land covering 26 beneficiaries.
The Chief Minister said Apple village will be established in Khiram, Anantnag on 1035 hectares of land covering 1025 beneficiaries. Similarly, Apricot village is to be established in village Hardas in Kargil on 230 hectares of land covering 397 beneficiaries. “Pica Nut villages are to be established at Saskote, Manjakote and Doongi in Rajouri district and Mankote, Sagra, Gani, Harin, Hari Bench, Ajote, Dagwar in Poonch district,” she said.
Ms Mehbooba said pesticide is a major concern for the growers and to curb the practice of spurious pesticides, two laboratories are already working in Jammu and Srinagar while more such laboratories will be established in all the districts of the state. “The government is also in the process of establishing Soil Testing Labs in the state for the benefit of the farmers,” she said.
Ms Mehbooba said the Government is also increasing the capacity of Controlled Atmospheric Stores (CAS) to address shortfall as part of the post harvesting management program for fruits and flowers.
She urged the Legislators to partner in this movement for transformation in the horticulture and floriculture sectors by at least identifying one model plot for high density plantation in horticulture sector.
Referring to the Floriculture sector, the Chief Minister said it is heartening to note that under Technology Mission and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) commercial production various varieties of cut flowers like Lilium, Coronation, Marigold, Gladiolus and flower seeds has taken off in the private sector with significant involvement of educated youth.
She said under other initiatives in Floriculture sector, Tulip cultivation is being commercialized, 13 walk-in cold rooms have been installed for preservation of flowers and 11 units of air conditioned vehicles have been put to use for transportation of cut flowers from different parts of the State to the Airports. “The Floriculture Department is in touch with some airlines for providing transportation of cut flowers to Delhi and other States of the country on concessional basis,” she said and added that the Department is also exploring the possibility of acquiring space in the Flower Mandi at Ghaziabad, Delhi.
Ms Mehbooba said to promote commercial activity in Floriculture sector, the Department of Floriculture recently organized Kashmir Flower Show at the Botanical Garden here to showcase various kinds of cut flowers produced by the growers in Kashmir. “A national level Flower Festival is being organized at Srinagar in September this year in collaboration with National Horticulture Board, she said.
The Chief Minister said that the Gardening Training Institutes are being revived and upgraded at Srinagar and Jammu to provide specialized training to the local youth in gardening and landscaping skills.
She said the Department is working on the development of open spaces, mostly in urban areas of the State, to ensure clean and pollution free environment. “At present the Department maintains more than 485 gardens and parks in the State,” she said.