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SRINAGAR

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president, Mehbooba Mufti, Friday called upon the Government of India to intervene effectively and urgently to rescue the ailing horticulture sector in Jammu and Kashmir, a party statement said on Friday.

Raising the issue in the Lok Sabha, she urged the Union Government to send a team of experts to Kashmir to assess the loss suffered by the horticulture which constitutes the core economic activity of the state, and devise a package with short term and long term objectives. She said the fruit crops especially apple has been hit by diseases across Kashmir and districts of Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and parts of Budgam are the worst hit.

Mehbooba said multiple diseases have attacked apple plants and almost all orchards are threatened causing nearly total devastation of the crop. She said: “The diseases are leaving a long term impact as well which could permanently hurt the industry that is providing sustenance to nearly three lakh families.”

She said Kashmir contributes nearly 70% of the total apple production in the country, but the sector is faced with immense problems ranging from degeneration of old orchards to rising cost of inputs and post harvest problems.

The PDP president, who represents South Kashmir in the parliament, said the horticulture industry in the state has received a boost under the previous government with measures like abolishing of toll tax, establishment of local fruit markets and introduction of market intervention scheme. But, she regretted that, instead of building up on these initiatives the sector has been victim of complete neglect.

Mehbooba said while the post-harvest component of the industry has undergone revolutionary transformation across the world and other states of our country, in J&K we have still not been able to establish a cold chain with the result that apple, the premium product of the state, has lost its competitive edge in the open market.  “Though, mercifully, our growers and farmers are still braving the adversity and not succumbing to the pressures of indebtedness of other states, but many of them could be on the brink.” This would call for concerted efforts by the Central and state governments, she added.

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