Srinagar: Kashmir’s horticulture sector holds immense potential not in terms of generating revenue for the state but providing direct and indirect employment to the people here and elsewhere.
No wonder that the Chief Minister while chairing a review meeting at Jammu the other day stressed on the need to enhance the allocation for Horticulture sector in view of its contribution to the State economy besides involvement of a large chunk of population with the trade.
Jammu & Kashmir produces around 18 lakh metric tonnes of fruit which constitutes a major chunk of the total fruit produced in India. The Industry generates some seven crore mandays of work annually, highest by any sector of economy.
The sector is so rich that with mere inputs and seriousness by the government like raising more allied infrastructure, introduction of high yielding varieties, good connectivity to orchards to cut down the overhead costs, availability of cold chain facilities and good marketing, can revolutionize the sector.
The initiative can be taken by roping in growers and prepare them for introducing high yielding varieties of crops, combined with the old varieties so that the new breed that emerges is disease resistant and high yielding.
The government can step in and provide incentives to the growers and persuaded them to take up plantation of new varieties. The government can also ensure connecting the orchards and the main apple and fruit producing areas with good roads so that the over head costs are reduced and the crop reach its destination without getting damaged.
Even though some efforts have already gone into converting the horticulture sector into a better yielding activity as the government has already announced ‘Apple Year’ campaign with tourism campaigns to make apple industry of the State another attraction.
But all said and done, the governments seriousness in turning the horticulture Industry needs a major overhaul. Growers in all far off areas especially the Jenab Valley belt have been demanding awareness programme for the growers in the region. The growers say that the government has not conducted any awareness campaign due to which the people of the region remain devoid of various schemes initiated by the government for horticulture sector.
The efforts to revitalize the horticulture industry need to be redoubled. The fruit nurseries need to be developed under controlled atmosphere conditions for propagate sapling, to yield better fruit.
The field departments along with the expertise of the SKUAST and CITH need to collectively take measures to develop the nurseries on modern lines with scientific inputs, besides constituting core group committee officials from each department who will look after the process of developing these nurseries in a balanced and controlled manner.
A new beginning is the need of the hour and the more promptness the government and its officials show in this regard, the more will be the dividends.