SRINAGAR: The state has initiated the process to get several agricultural products such as walnut and apricot certified as the produce of organic farming.
The Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Tuesday asked the Horticulture Department to take “immediate and necessary” steps to get certification for declaring walnut, almond, apricot and Ladakh vegetables as produce of organic farming.
He gave the instructions in a high-level review meeting related to the horticulture sector held in Jammu.
“This will ensure far higher returns than what we are getting today for these fruits,” Sayeed said.
To arrest the fall in apple production, he asked for promoting high-density plantation and micro-irrigation techniques and for adopting best contemporary practices in fruit farming to tap the state’s potential in horticulture sector.
Apple continues to lead fruit production in the state, forming 64 per cent of the total produce. It is followed by walnut and almond.
“Since old plantations are leading to falling yields in apple production, there is a need to shift to high-density farming in a time-bound manner, for which stocks can be imported from the European countries,” Sayeed said.
To begin with, he said, the department should choose five to seven locations for micro-irrigation and sprinkling to encourage people towards high-density farming.
Stressing upon the need for the growers to shift to commercial farming to increase fruit production, the CM said the government will offer a “package of incentives” to the growers for improving the quality and volume of production in the state.
“Our potential in exports is far greater than the Rs 4,500 crore. We have earned last year by exporting 10 lakh tons of fresh and dry fruits,” he stated, equating the potential in horticulture sector with that of the tourism.
There is a need to properly implement the market intervention scheme to help facilitate growers to sell their produce with improved returns, he said, adding the government will continue to procure C-grade apples from the growers so that the best quality apple is exported. Sayeed emphasized on the need for standardizing the quality control and for proper packaging of the produce to meet international benchmarks in fruit marketing.
The experiments undertaken in Agricultural Universities, he said, should show results on the ground and not remain confined to research only.
“The department should identify areas which have potential for commercial farming which will provide huge economic gains in national and overseas markets,” he added.
Expressing concern over low fruit production in Jammu, the Chief Minister directed the department to find out reasons and suggest ways and measures for improving the production.
“The government will offer incentives to fruit growers for commercial farming of mangoes, litchi, walnut, apples and apricot in Jammu division. There should be better coordination between the department and SKUAST to encourage growers to shift to commercial farming for better economic returns,” he said.
The Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Nirmal Singh, stressed upon the need to educate the farmers to shift to commercial farming. Minister for Horticulture, Abdul Rahman Veeri, said the department is taking steps to increase the manpower at the “cutting edge level” for “optimum utilization” of the available resources.
The CM was informed about the losses suffered in horticulture sector in the devastating floods of 2014.
He was told that 9.21 lakh metric tons of fruits got damaged in the floods, which affected an of 1.47 lakh hectares.