SRINAGAR: If 20 per cent orchards in Kashmir Valley adopt high-density farming, horticulture will become Rs 15,000-crore industry in five years, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said on Friday.
Unveiling the first-ever high-density apple orchard set up by an entrepreneur, Khurram, at Bamdoora, Anantnag in south Kashmir, Sayeed, as per an official handout issued here, urged the farmers in the Valley to join the “pursuit of making Kashmir the ‘Fruit Valley of the World’”.
He asked the growers to shift to high-density farming to enhance apple production and to ensure better returns for their yield.
“Government will diversify horticulture by adopting newer techniques and best practices to survive the onslaught of emerging markets in and outside the country,” he said.
He credited the Valley’s fruit growers and craftsmen for “sustaining the state’s fledgling economy” during the recent decades.
J&K, he said, is on “the cusp of a historic change” and the present government “will make its people equal partners in ushering in an era of peace and development”.
The Chief Minister said the people in the state have “suffered a lot” and “deserve peace dividend in the form of sustained development and fair and accountable administration”.
“It is not in my nature to fight. I don’t like to win fights and lose friends,” he stated.
Appreciating the effort of entrepreneurs like Khurram, Sayeed said change won’t come unless fruit growers are convinced about rejuvenating their orchards through high-density farming.
“This is a Live Demonstration of a model apple orchard from which we need to take inspiration,” he said, while praising the effort put in by the entrepreneur in raising the orchard and building a farmers’ consortium having 3,000 members.
A young ‘techno-farmer’ with branded concept of Root2Fruit, Khurram has scientifically developed his orchard over 42 kanals of land with attractive rows of high-quality apple plants. Each tree has been carefully provided with four-wire trellis system, anti-hail, net and a drip irrigation and fertigation unit, the handout said.
His orchard has started bearing fruit in a brief gestation period of just a little over 15 months, it said, adding Grannysmith, an apple with medicinal value most suited to diabetics, is one of the plant varieities in his orchard.
Under high-density farming, 200 rootstocks, presently imported from Europe, are planted over one kanal of land. With each tree yielding 18-19 kg high-quality apple, one kanal of land will produce 4-5 MT of fruit, which is a quantum jump over propagation of apples through traditional farming.
Asking the agriculture universities to come out of their “cocoons” and take test results of their research on ground, the Chief Minister said it is “ironical” that a young boy has taken the lead and shown farmers the way in adopting good agricultural practices.
“What Khurram has done at Bamdoora was actually the job of scientists in our universities, whose research-based experiments are heavily funded by the government,” he said, and directed SK University of Agriculture Science and Technology (SKUAST) to actively participate in popularising high-density orchard system among farmers.
Sayeed hoped that the shift to high-density farming will open up new vistas of employment for nearly three lakh youth over the next 15 years.
This, he said, will happen if we are able to improve the quality of fruit to boost exports to country and overseas markets.
As per available figures, out of the 1.8 lakh MT of apples produced in the state, only 35 per cent are high-quality that can be exported.
In comparison, Europe exports nearly 80 per cent of its total apple produce.