JAMMU:Horticulture being the core sector of agriculture is considered as backbone of J&K economy contributing over 8 percent towards Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Union Territory besides generating employment avenues for the young generation.
The official data reveals that in Kashmir division 700,000 farming families consisting of 35 lakh souls are directly and indirectly associated with this Sector.
To give further impetus to horticulture sector in the UT, the Jammu and Kashmir government has taken several steps to boost the sector by providing high-yielding plants to the growers besides several other schemes have also been launched for this purpose.
In this direction, around 2 lakh quality plants have been produced in public sector nurseries and distributed among the famers in Kashmir.
In Kashmir division three Hi-Tech walnut nurseries at Zawoora, Srinagar; Brakpora, Anantnag and Chandigam, Kupwara have been established and about 20,000 walnut seedlings are being produced annually for further propagation in controlled conditions.
To complement the above established nurseries, one Almond/stone fruit nursery is under establishment in southern Shopian district which would eventually produce about two lakh fruit plants annually.
In addition, the Horticulture Department has established Centre of Excellence at Zawoora, Srinagar which serves as a demonstration-cum-training centre besides germ plasma and clinical facility to the growers is also provided through this centre. So far, 20 Controlled Atmosphere (CA) Storage Projects with 1.70 lakh Metric Tonnes of storage capacity and 30 Food processing projects have been created for fresh fruit retention.
The government has already declared horticulture a thrust area and is taking a number of steps like import of three lakh apple clonal rootstocks for multiplication and production of elite planting material has been made from Advanced Countries which will generate about 12 lakh root stock after its establishment period of 2 years.
From last two years, an area of about 5000 Kanal has been brought under establishment of super high density plantation besides an area of about 48000 Kanal under medium density and rejuvenation programme was covered by the department.
On farm mechanization front, fruit growers in Kashmir division have either provided or established 404 vermi-compost units, 342 On Farm Handling units, 176 Bore wells, 9692 other machinery equipments viz motor power sprayers, tillers, tractors, weeders, tools/implements etc.
Under backyard horticulture, 4 lakh different kinds of fruit plants at the rate of 90 per cent subsidy were provided to inhabitants of Kashmir Division.
The department also organized Buyer Seller-cum-Garden Fresh Fruit Mela on the pattern of Sunday market for direct benefit of growers with Farm Bill passed by Parliament in 2020 and a large number of fruit growers got directly benefited from this.
Also, to facilitate fruit growers, Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha, launched Market Intervention Scheme (MIS-2020) for procurement of apples on October 28, 2020.
To give fillip to the sector, the department has formulated a strategy to produce four crore fruit plants for covering an area of 10,000 hectare under super high density plantation and about 2 lakh exotic scion wood stocks are being made available to the nursery growers for propagation of elite planting material. The department is providing about 50 per cent assistance on establishment of Food Preservation units, CA storage units (Project based) in collaboration with CSS MIDH, MOFPI and UT Government.
Besides, the department is organizing training cum awareness programmes in Food and Vegetable Preservation for human resource development and Entrepreneurship programme. The Department is organizing awareness programmes in all districts of Kashmir division under ATMA and a mega Kissan Mela was also organized on 5th of March 2020 for mass awareness of fruit growers.
By showcasing their mettle outside J&K, Award of Excellence was also conferred to the stall presented by Directorate of Horticulture Kashmir in an event “International Workshop on “Value Addition And Agro Processing” organized by the Government of Kerala.