By Sanjeev Kumar Chadha
WHILE While addressing the Nation on August 8, 2019, Hon’ble Prime Minister had said that the special dispensation provided by the Article 370 was a hurdle for development of Jammu & Kashmir and the nation has taken the historic decision to ensure equal rights for the citizens of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. After lapse of almost two years, new vistas have opened for development in most of the sectors of economy. Agriculture and Horticulture being core of rural economy, is one of them.
India ranks seven in world apple production with a share of only 3% among all fruit crops. Jammu & Kashmir boasts of around 80% share of total apple produced in the country. Apple cultivation and its value chain is one of the main stays of rural economy with revenue of around Rs. 1500 crores. The apple production is predominantly confined to districts of Srinagar, Ganderbal, Budgam, Baramulla, Kupwara, Anantnag and Shopian in Kashmir province whereas districts of Udhampur, Doda, Poonch, Ramban and Reasi also report apple cultivation on smaller scale.
Jammu & Kashmir has tremendous potential for enhanced production and export of quality apple. The productivity of apple at present is around 11 MT/hectare compared to over 40 MT/hectare in Italy, Chile, France, etc. In order to achieve the stated goal of doubling the farmer’s income, there is tremendous scope for improvement in the cultivars of apple by introducing improved varieties to enhance per hectare productivity. At the same time, there is need to bridge the gap between the required and existing capacity of the Controlled Atmosphere Cold Storages. Besides this, the value chain in the form of grading, sorting and packing is an area where we can add tremendous value for better returns for growers and other stakeholders.
The U.T. Administration has embarked on the path of bringing a paradigm shift in cultivation, harvesting and marketing of apple and other fruits by introducing High Density Plantation. This is an historic intervention that would benefit over 10 to 15 lakh families and also position the country in the map of one of the largest apple growing countries in the world.
Year wise Production of Apple in Jammu & Kashmir
Area in '000 Ha
Production in '000 MT
(Source: Director Horticulture Kashmir)
At present a traditional orchard can accommodate not more than 250 plants per hectare. Monoculture of old and traditional cultivars, senile orchards and non-availability of high quality cultival spectrum has lead to low productivity and poor quality which needs rejuvenation and replacement with new emerging cultivars. Introduction of Clonal fruit stock and the Quality Planting Material (QPM) prepared from the improved genetic lines would increase number of plants per hectare to 3333. This would enhance the productivity by 3-4 times and reduce the gestation period for early harvest for the farmers.
Introduction of Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) in last two years in Jammu Kashmir has evoked positive response among the growers as they could get much better price for their produce when the market situation was not favorable. This has given them assurance that there would always be a government agency to fall back upon to sell their produce at remunerative rates if the market conditions are not favorable.
In last three years, High Density Plantation has been attempted and around 250 hectare area has been covered with participation of the private sector. However, there is tremendous scope to fast-track creation of apple orchards with high and medium density root stock. The scheme announced by the UT Administration envisages coverage of around 5500 hectare in coming 05 years with an estimated investment of around Rs. 1750 crores. In order to sustain these efforts it is also proposed to set up atleast four Hi-Tech Nurseries with pre-quarantine facility and modern virus indexing labs so as to ensure continuous supply of QPM at much affordable rates. Nafed, which is National Level Agency of Govt. of India, has been roped in to facilitate the efforts of J&K Administration in this regard.
The HDP Programme is bound to bring a paradigm shift in the whole Horticulture ecosystem and intrinsically link the sector with markets in India and abroad. It would act as a precursor to create modern infrastructure in the value chain besides creating huge employment opportunities for all the stakeholders starting from growers to cold storage industry and traders. Some of the important focus areas of the programme are:
- Enhancement of area coverage under apple and other temperate fruits with improved varieties.
- Increase in production and productivity.
- Bringing non-traditional areas of Jammu Province under apple cultivation.
- Creation of smaller hi-tech nurseries at Block/Tehsil Level with participation of private sector.
- Collectivisation of farmers/growers having small and fractured land-holdings, in the form of Farmers Producer Organizations (FPOs). Jammu and Kashmir has already joined this programme and specialised crop-specific FPOs have been created in all the Districts.
- Setting up of three cold chains with latest facilities for sorting, grading, pre-cooling, processing and refer transport.
- Setting up Pre-Quarantine facilities and virus indexing laboratories at four nurseries of Horticulture Department.
- Provide assured market linkages and better returns for growers and removing layers of middlemen.
- Enhanced productivity and higher percentage of A grade apples and increase the income of farmers three to four times.
High Density Plantation programme for temperate fruits would no doubt be a game changer for the rural economy of Jammu and Kashmir. In the years to come, private sector would have to closely work with the growers and government agencies to bridge the gaps in Research and Development, training and capacity building, creating additional cold chain facilities to sustain the momentum. All stakeholders must join hands and take advantage of other related schemes like Agri Infrastructure Fund, National Horticulture Board, etc. The apple economy would get a boost to a level not seen in last seven decades and India would not only become Atamnirbhar but also export apples in huge volumes.
- Sanjeev Kumar Chadha is Managing Director, NAFED
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