Imagine a sector that currently contributes nearly Rs 6000 Crore to State’s economy but has the capacity to contribute nearly Rs 30,000 Crore. The sector should have remained at the focal point of the any government, but so far this sector, ie the horticulture has been witnessing governments apathy. The horticulture sector can turn out to the backbone of Jammu and Kashmir state’s economy, but all it needs is immediate attention and if the present government claims so, let it prove it by taking measures that will help turn the sector and the state’s economy around.
The state to begin with does not have a horticulture policy. Though it should have been devised way back as the sector is not new. People in the state have been dependent on the horticulture sector for centuries together but so far no professional approach has been adopted to draft any future plans.
The Government now claims that it is committed to enhance the productivity and revamp horticulture sector of the State by formulating Horticulture Policy which will act as roadmap to achieve these objectives.
Even an expert committee has been formulated which will draft a comprehensive policy for 25-30 years and suggest short and long term, pre and post harvest measures to increase quality and productivity per hectare while suggesting appropriate technological interventions and human resource development to meet the local, national and international demand while safeguarding the interest of growers to increase their income.
The Horticulture industry can change the fortunes of not only the farming community but the entire State with its cascading benefits. Any effort to draw forward-looking roadmaps through perspective planning for improving quality and production of Horticulture crops by integrated implementation of viable, eco-friendly, validated and refined technologies, besides preparing a visionary document in the form of a Horticulture Policy for next 25-30 years needs to be well researched and discussed with the experts in the feild.
The Expert Committee formed has been mandated to assess the potential of Horticulture sector, keeping in view the available land under old and senile orchards in different geo-climatic conditions.
The peculiar geographical situation and inadequacy of infrastructure in the state should not be overlooked. The limited availability of agricultural land has restricted the development of agriculture and the possibility of land productivity. The outputs of agricultural products are not increasing in proportion to the cost involved in the farming. The agricultural activity is, therefore, considered to be an uneconomic occupation.
One has to keep in mind that the economy of the state is largely agrarian with 70% of the population dependent on it and about 49% of the working population engaged in it.
The horticulture sector accounts only for 13 per cent of the net sown area but contributes 45 per cent of the state’s agricultural GDP. Six lakh families comprising of 30 lakh people are directly or indirectly involved in horticulture trade.
Horticulture has been growing in importance contributing to nutritional security, land productivity, employment, exports and farm incomes by offering a wide range of choice to the farmers for crop diversification.
The varied agro-climatic zones in the state, ranging from sub-tropical in Jammu, temperate in Kashmir and cold arid in Ladakh, make it ideal to grow diverse high value horticulture produce. The forward and backward linkages offer tremendous potential for employment generation and rural uplift.
However, there is vast scope for further improvement to increase production and productivity trends particularly in case of Apple and Saffron. Strong measures needs to be taken for further exploration of high yielding varieties , production of quality planting material, Canopy management, High density plantation, Rejuvenation technology and water harvesting.
Besides, technologies developed through Front Line demonstration (FLDs) and On-farm-trails (OFTs) needs to be disseminated through main extension system for the benefit of farmers at large to change the outlook of the farming community form traditional agriculture to diversified agriculture.