Shrinking Land, Diminishing Returns

What are the bottlenecks in the J&K agriculture and horticulture sectors


It remains a serious cause of worry that the share of the agriculture & allied sector to GSDP continues to slide down in J&K state; the estimated percentage contribution of agriculture & allied sectors to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) is approximately 19.41% in 2010-11, against corresponding share of 28.06% registered in 2004-05 at constant price. According to the 8th census report, released recently by the J&K Revenue Department, 14.43 lakh operational holders were operating on 9.62 lakh hectares of land in the year 2000-01. This number has fallen to 13.78 lakh operational holders operating on 9.23 lakh hectares of land registering a decrease of 1.50% in operational holders and 0.041% in operated area.
The government need to take serious steps for revival of primary sector as more than thirty lakh people, in J&K state, are involved in agricultural & allied activities. The government should take immediate resolute measures to meet challenges of urbanization; our agricultural fields being converted into housing colonies.
With an annual turnover of fruits and dry fruits of the order of Rs.3500 crores, horticulture plays a significant role in the economy of J&K. An estimated 25 lakh people are connected directly or indirectly with the horticulture sector. Fruit production expanded from 0.93 million tons in 1999/2000 to 1.4 million tons by 2005/06. Productivity, however, remains low compared to international levels: for apples, the main horticulture commodity, productivity has been hovering at 10 tons/hectare compared to 26 tons/hectare in USA, Australia and New Zealand. Area under fruits in J&K has increased from 3.15 lakh hectares in 2009-10 to 3.25 lakh hectares in 2010-11, showing an increase of 3.17%. The production has increased from 17.13 lakh metric tonnes in 2009-10 to 22.21 lakh metric tonnes in 2010-11 recording an increase of29.65%.
Although the production under Horticulture Sector is increasing year by year but there is no significant growth in the export of horticulture produce outside the state. The required marketing linkage is missing. Approximately 55% of total area under horticulture is covered for apple production and apple ranks first with regard to share in production of fresh fruits with a share of 83.37%. But, about 30% of ‘A’ grade, 40% of ‘B’ grade and 30% of ‘C’ grade of pre-falls and culled apples account for substantial quantum of around 3 lakh metric tonnes which needs to be exploited as raw material for processing industry. This requires processing capacity of 3 lakh tons per annum. The current capacity is barely 65,000 tons, and even this capacity is underutilized in view of the misguided propensity of growers to sell fruit without grading, sorting and value addition.
Starting 1990, much of the post-harvest infrastructure such as grading/packaging facilities, cold stores and fruit juice manufacturing got damaged or even destroyed. Despite relative calm, investment interest has not picked up yet. Most of the fruit is not graded at the production/collection centers and is subject to the same process of packaging, transportation and storage irrespective of its value in the market. This practice of indiscriminate mixing of all grades of fruit, packing them together and rushing them to the market, results in oversupply over a very short period, low overall price realization and erosion of the potentially valuable brand equity of the Kashmir fruit. Ultimately, the poor growers get lesser prices, whereas the middlemen, taking benefits of value addition techniques, make good profits selling same produce to the consumers comparatively on higher prices. Main consumption markets of the country are a far way off from the production centers in the state; apart from the costs, the perishable nature of fruit accentuates the problems. Location disadvantage is exacerbated by poor connectivity: the only National Highway in the state from the valley to Jammu is particularly vulnerable to rain/snowfall during the main season when the fruit is harvested and transported to rest of the country. Poor marketing strategy, low transparency of the market and weak supply chains have together completely eroded incentive for producers to improve quality and productivity; locked the horticulture sector of the state into a low level equilibrium. Another major problem is the absence of an institutional structure for credit and inputs which has turned the terms of trade against the producers. J&K Bank and other Cooperative Sector Banks should be strictly made to consistently meet the targets set for agriculture credit flow.
Jammu and Kashmir Horticulture Produce Marketing Corporation was established by Government of J&K on the pattern of Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Produce Marketing Corporation, which has shown its remarkable presence all over north India and has generated huge revenues for Himachal Pradesh; this is, shockingly, totally lacking with the JKHPMC despite having sufficient infrastructure. Therefore it becomes obligatory upon the Government to take strict action against the said chronic non-performer employees of JKHPMC by declaring them as deadwood & retire them forcefully.
During last few years, we have witnessed very disturbing trends emerging in agriculture sector; the farmers are loosing interest as they find agriculture less remunerative, too small to sustain their families. The government might think to take following few necessary measures:-
• to educate and enable farmers to change their production techniques, diversify and grow efficiently what the market will reward;
• to provide a farmer friendly institutional structure for credit and inputs;
• to provide interest free loans for purchase of land for agricultural purpose and 50% subsidy on purchase of agricultural equipments including tractors, purchase & digging of tube-wells, construction of on-farm stores and water harvesting tanks to unemployed Agriculture Graduates and other unemployed persons, after imparting them one year training in latest farming techniques,;
• to regulate and control all Terminal / Satellite Markets in the state so as to ensure interests of farmers and other stakeholders, strictly, as per provisions of the J&K Agriculture Produce Marketing Regulation Act of 1997;
• to draft a bail-out plan for revitalizing all Fruit Growers Cooperative Marketing Societies and other such farmers’ cooperative institutions, which have turned defunct;
• to put in place a strong mechanism so as to ensure timely procurement of paddy on minimum support price;
• to provide Food Processing facilities to all the farmers for the purpose of value addition as well as for reducing post-harvest losses;
• to build and provide post harvesting infrastructure to farmers of the state in each district near high production zones viz., providing chilling facilities, pack houses, sorting & grading centres, quality assurance laboratories, refrigerated vans, controlled atmosphere (CA) stores and cooling chambers;
• to provide Subsidy on Card Board Packing & transportation of horticulture produce to markets outside the state;
• to introduce Market Intervention Scheme for pre-fall, off-grade and culled fruit in whole of the state;
• to raise special fund to make an integrated intervention for water harvesting, water conservation, water shed programme, soil health preservation of biodiversity in un-irrigated areas of the state; to enhance agriculture/horticulture productivity in dry land farming & Kandi areas. The present uncoordinated measures, being taken by CAD, Horticulture, Rural Development and Soil Conservation Departments are not sufficient; usually funds are mis-utilised and there are chances of overlapping of funds; the quality, as well as, the survival rate of plants purchased, by different agencies in the same one area, is very poor; making this crucial exercise a wasteful activity.
• to take in hand dis-investment plan for revival &economic viability of State Public Sector Undertakings like JKHPMC and Agro Industries; these Public Sector Enterprises have generally been in red for the past two decades; the State Government has been providing some budgetary support to supplement the revenues of these corporations for payment of wages; a disinvestment plan to make the ownership broad based in JKHPMC and Agro Industries with issue of equity shares up-to 49% of total equity for institutions as well as general public is need of hour, today.

Lastupdate on : Sun, 29 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 29 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 30 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST

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