High density plantation, processing to revive JK’s horticulture sector: Minister

High density plantation, processing to revive JK’s horticulture sector: Minister
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“Horticulture understated employment provider, generated 7.71 cr mandays during 2016-1’

JAMMU: Minister for Horticulture, Syed Basharat Ahmed Bukhari on Wednesday informed the House that horticulture sector generated a total wage employment of 7.71 crore mandays in the year 2016-17 under apple orchards and others, coming out as one of the major sources for direct and indirect employment generation in the state.
The minister said this while replying to the discussion on Demand for Grants of Horticulture Department in the Legislative Assembly, here, an official handout read.
“About 7 lakh farming families with a population of 33 lakh souls are directly or indirectly dependent upon the horticulture sector in the state. It is one of the largest employment generating sectors as one hectare of an apple orchard generates almost 400 mandays per year, besides also generating healthy employment figures in horticulture as well as in other allied sectors” the minister asserted.
The minister informed that horticulture sector has significantly expanded over the years with an area of 3.38 lakh hectares presently under horticulture, with a production of 23.55 LMTs of which fresh fruit production is 20.75 LMTs and dry fruit production is 2.80 LMTs and is contributing about 8% to the state’s GDP.
The minister said that J&K produces 70% of the national production in apple, 92% in walnuts, 91% in almonds and systematic efforts were underway to further strengthen the state’s position in production of fresh and dry fruit, the handout read.
“A Comprehensive Horticulture Policy is also being formulated for which the department conducted extensive census of existing fruit bearing/non-fruit bearing trees, an exercise due by 36 years” Bukhari said, adding that this updated data will help form a relevant and realistic policy for the state’s horticulture sector.
The minister informed that the government has taken an initiative of converting/transforming half the quantum of existing land under apple orchards i.e., 75,000 hectares into high density apple plantation to fetch better returns for the growers.
Market Intervention Scheme has also been launched during 2017-18 in order to prevent C-grade apples from coming to market and to inculcate the discipline of proper grading among growers to fetch better returns, the minister said.
Additionally, around 9 lakh high density plants will be imported in the next year to cover around 320 hectares of orchard area after observing necessary post-quarantine measures, the minister said adding that 72 hectares of high density plantation has already been done by the department till date, it further read.
Bukhari said that the department is actively pursuing the objective of developing its own nurseries by way of import of root stock and 3.47 lakh clonal root stocks of imported varieties planted in ACHD Zainapora, Shopian, Bukhari said.
With an effort to improve the brand image of JK fruits and to undertake rigorous marketing in the national market, 2018-19 and 2019-20 are being celebrated as “Apple Years” under which various awareness and educational programme will be conducted at all levels, the minister informed.
To revive the declining market of dry fruit especially walnuts, a Comprehensive Revival Plan is under consideration, the minister said adding that the Government is also considering establishment of a high-tech, walnut nursery at Zawoora for which a provision has been made in the current year’s budget.
The government is also providing 50% interest subvention for a period of 5 years for walnut processing units from the current year to encourage private participation. Under Public sector, a state-of-art processing and packaging unit of 10,000 MTs capacity with cold storage facility for walnuts is being taken up under NABARD, he informed.
Bukhari said that the government is also considering developing nurseries with improved varieties of almonds to boost the sector.
To increase the shelf life of fruits especially apple, controlled atmosphere storage facilities have come up in the State, besides the government has decided to subsidize refrigerated vans and hire shelf space of CA storage in Delhi to boost the industry and ensure better returns to the growers/traders, the handout added.