Minister for Horticulture, Syed Basharat Ahmed Bukhari on Wednesday informed the House that Horticulture sector generated a total wage employment of 7.71 crore man-days in the year 2016-17 under apple orchards and others, coming out as one of the major sources for direct and indirect employment generation in the state.
The Minister said this while replying to the discussion on Demand for Grants of Horticulture Department in the Legislative Assembly, here today.
“About 7 lakh farming families with a population of 33 lakh souls are directly or indirectly dependent upon the horticulture sector in the State. It is one of the largest employment generating sectors as one hectare of an apple orchard generates almost 400 man-days per year, besides also generating healthy employment figures in horticulture as well as in other allied sectors” the Minister asserted.
The Minister informed that Horticulture sector has significantly expanded over the years with an area of 3.38 lakh hectares presently under horticulture, with a production of 23.55 LMTs of which fresh fruit production is 20.75 LMTs and dry fruit production is 2.80 LMTs and is contributing about 8% to the State’s GDP.
During his reply, Bukhari said “I salute the farmers/growers for their dedication and hard work that has given the state’s horticulture sector its present position, despite facing several disadvantages. I aim to initiate reformative measures to support the growers so that we can achieve a dominant position in national market”.
The Minister also thanked the Chief Minister and Finance Minister for their consideration, guidance to further develop the Horticulture sector. All important deliberations from pre-budget meetings have been reflected in the Budget proposals viz; augmentation of CA stores, establishment of walnut processing units, development of nurseries of Mango and Litchi, promotion of Aloe Vera cultivation, refrigerated vans, finance orchard re-plantation, high density plantation initiative and development of road connectivity and irrigation facilities to orchards under MGNREGA, NABARD and PMGSY.
The Minister said that J&K produces 70% of the national production in apple, 92% in walnuts, 91% in Almonds and systematic efforts are underway to further strengthen the state’s position in the production of fresh and dry fruit.
“A Comprehensive Horticulture Policy is also being formulated for which the department conducted an extensive census of existing fruit bearing/non-fruit bearing trees, an exercise due by 36 years,” Bukhari said, adding that this updated data will help form a relevant and realistic policy for the state’s horticulture sector.
The Minister informed that the government has taken an initiative of converting/transforming half the quantum of existing land under apple orchards i.e, 75000 hectares into high density apple plantation to fetch better returns for the growers.
Further, Market Intervention Scheme with Chief Minster’s intervention has also been launched during 2017-18 in order to prevent C-grade Apples from coming to market and to inculcate the discipline of proper grading among growers to fetch better returns, the Minister said.
Additionally, around 9 lakh high-density plants will be imported in the next year to cover around 320 hectares of orchard area after observing necessary post-quarantine measures, the Minister said adding that 72 hectares of high-density plantation has already been done by the department till date.
Bukhari said that the department is actively pursuing the objective of developing its own nurseries by way of import of rootstock and 3.47 lakh clonal rootstocks of imported varieties planted in ACHD Zainapora, Shopian, Bukhari said.
With an effort to improve the brand image of JK fruits and to undertake rigorous marketing in the national market, 2018-19 and 2019-20 is being celebrated as “Apple Years” under which various awareness and the educational programme will be conducted at all levels, the Minister informed.
To revive the declining market of dry fruit especially walnuts, a Comprehensive Revival Plan is under consideration, the Minister said adding that the Government is also considering the establishment of a high-tech, walnut nursery at Zawoora for which a provision has been made in the current year’s budget.
The government is also providing 50% interest subvention for a period of 5 years for walnut processing units from the current year to encourage private participation. Under Public sector, a state-of-art processing and packaging unit of 10,000 MTs capacity with cold storage facility for walnuts is being taken up under NABARD, he informed.
Bukhari said that the Government is also considering developing nurseries with improved varieties of Almonds to boost the sector.
To increase the shelf life of fruits especially apple, controlled atmosphere storage facilities have come up in the State, besides the government has decided to subsidize refrigerated vans and hire shelf space of CA storage in Delhi to boost the industry and ensure better returns to the growers/traders.
The Minister expressed thanks to the Chief Minister for her intervention in the revival of JKHPMC and said that efforts are underway for engagement of a competent Management Consultancy for submission of a revival plan.
The Minister informed the House that 2 Centres of Excellence are being established in consultation with Dutch experts at Udheywalla Jammu and at Zawoora, Srinagar at a cost of Rs 7.80 crore and Rs 9 crore respectively. Besides, 2 Pesticide Testing Laboratories one each in the twin capital cities have been established and 3 Mobile Soil Testing Vans, 2 in Srinagar and 1 in Jammu have been pressed into service, he said.
Bukhari said 6 Model villages including two Mango villages at Jammu for Sungal-Akhnoor and Mallaprode-Khour, 2 PeacaNut villages one each in District Rajouri and Poonch, a Model Apricot village at Hardass Kargil and a model Apple village at Khiram Sirhama in Anantnag are being developed in the State at a cost of Rs 29.62 crores.
To give thrust to research, teaching, and extension in horticulture sector, the government is contemplating to establish a full-fledged Horticulture University in the State in near future, the Minister said.
Two major centrally sponsored schemes, viz; Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) for the overall development of the horticulture and Prime Minister Developmental Package (PMDP) for the restoration of flood-affected orchards and development of Horticulture are currently being implemented in the state.
Under PMDP, an amount of Rs 20 crore has been allocated for development of solar dryers in Ladakh region and an amount of Rs. 9 crores has been earmarked for the establishment of Cold Storage facility in Leh and Kargil. Additionally, online facilities will be developed in three Terminal Markets in the next financial year to facilitate the fruit growers/traders of the State, Bukhari said.
The Minister informed that Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna for Apple and Mangos is being implemented in the state. The scheme has already been implemented in 10 districts in Jammu from 2017 onwards and modalities are working out for insurance in Kashmir division.
Later, the House passed the grants of Horticulture department for the year 2018-19, which were moved by the Minister, amounting to Rs 52833.05 lakhs with a voice vote.
Earlier, 21 Members participated in discussion on Demand for Grants including Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, Haji Rasheed, Dr Krishenlal, Hakeem Mohammad Yaseen, Mubarak Gul, Mohammad Khalil Bandh, Mohammad Amin Bhat, Bashir Ahmad Dar, Shaktee Parihar, Asgar Ali, Altaf Ahmad Wani, Yawar Mir, Dalip Singh Parihar, Akbar Lone, Sukhnandan Kumar, Sheikh Abdul Jabbar, Javid Hussain Beigh, Davinder Maniyal, Shah Mohammad Tantray, Abdul Majid and Abdul Rahim Rather.