SHOPIAN: If it gets government attention, Asia’s largest apple plantation farm at Zainpora in Shopian district would fetch crores of income to the state exchequer and may well revolutionise horticulture in entire south Kashmir, but lack of staff and gardeners has left more than 60 hectares of this farm lying as fallow land.
The farm at Zainpora is spread over a vast 135 hectares of karewa land but has been neglected by the government so much that half of it is lying useless. Officials working at this farm told Kashmir Reader that almost half of the sanctioned posts for this farm are lying vacant.
“Among 36 sanctioned posts, 16 are vacant, and we have only 27 casual labourers,” said Horticulture Development Officer Zainpora Farm, Mushtaq Ahmad. He added that the number of staffers and gardeners is negligible as compared to the hands required to work on this vast farm.
The officials said that 30 hectares of this farm in Reshipora block are stuck in a court case and are lying uncultivated. They said that the farm under Zainpora block has been fully used with cultivation of nurseries and ultra apple orchards.
“Among the 60 hectares which come under Safnagri block, we have three hectares under ultra apple orchards, 11 have been proposed for nursery, and five are proposed for a private entrepreneur for quarantine purpose. Forty hectares are useless as fallow land,” Ahmad said.
“For the current area which is under cultivation and nurseries, we need around 200 staffers. And if we count the whole area, there must be more than 300,” an official said, adding that despite having sufficient number of tractors, there isn’t a single driver for them.
Ahmad said that the farm currently gives more emphasis to propagation of root stock, and that they have developed several apple brands including varieties from Himachal and Italy.
“In pear cultivation, we have developed root stock of b20 from Bulgaria, in palm St Julian variety, in cherry Colt,” another official told Kashmir Reader.
Officials said that this year they distributed 26,182 plants to different horticulture offices in Kashmir Valley and produced/ distributed 2,75,000 root stock, among which 50,000 had been grafted.
A horticulture expert said that given the best soil quality of Zainpora farm, it could revolutionise the horticulture sector in Kashmir if the government pays it attention.
“This land has many qualities and with such a vast area the government can use it for research purposes as well as for quarantine. But, unfortunately, it has been ignored by the government,” said Javid Ahmad, a horticulture expert.
Director of Horticulture, Kashmir, Aijaz Ahmad Bhat could not be reached on his phone despite repeated attempts.