Stating that horticulture sustained the state economy during "difficult times" in Kashmir, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday announced implementation of crop insurance scheme in both horticulture and agriculture sectors.
Mehbooba termed horticulture and agriculture as key sectors with potential of giving flip to state economy while emphasizing the need to implement Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY) to provide crop insurance facility to farmers in both the sectors.
"Though we have not got the plan of action for the scheme (PMFBY yet) we have kept budgetary provision of Rs 75 crores under the scheme for this year though the total requirement is around Rs 200 crores," said Mehbooba while replying to the discussion on demand for grants of Horticulture and Floriculture Departments in the Legislative Assembly. "We will not let people suffer," she added.
Mehbooba referred to difficult times Kashmir went through in past two-and-a-half decades and credited horticulture and handicraft sectors for sustaining the state's struggling economy.
"It would not be out of place to say that horticulture and handicrafts have a bigger potential for state than tourism sector," said Mehbooba. "At least 14.79 lakh MTs of fresh and dry fruit valuing about Rs 6000 crores were exported from J&K during 2015-16 and the area under fruits has increased from 2.95 lakh hectares in 2007-08 to 3.57 lakh hectares in 2015-16."
"We keep on talking about promotion of tourisms but it is the horticulture which can give boost to our economy and address unemployment," said Mehbooba.
Mehbooba said the Government would be procuring the fruit damaged by the hailstorm from the growers under the Market Intervention Schemes to prevent people suffering from losses.
The Chief Minister said introduction of modern techniques like hybrid crops has seen young and educated youth getting attracted towards the sectors. She cited few instances where educated youth have started their own high density orchards and informed the House about different quantum of orchard land that has come under the high density crop in different districts.
She asked the legislators to adopt an orchard each in their respective constituency for developing them on modern lines and promised the Government would support such initiative, both financially and otherwise.
Responding to the concerns raised by the members about sale of spurious pesticides and fertilizers in the market the Chief Minister said only those pesticides which are approved by the Government and confirmed through investigations in the laboratories would be allowed for sale. She said the government would also be introducing mobile soil testing laboratories
She said the Government would roll out the plans for setting up apple, apricot, saffron, Rajmah and Basmati villages in different parts of Kashmir where the crops are grown in bulk, adding different schemes from Government of India would give flip to the sectors.
Stating that the Government would be focusing on participation of people in vegetable production, Mehbooba said the Agriculture Department would be setting up two "centers of excellence" of vegetable production, one each in Kashmir and Jammu to facilitate the vegetable growers and women entrepreneurs.
"These will be in addition to the two Centres of Excellence already announced to be established in horticulture sector," she said.
Urging fruit growers to shift to high-density plantation, Mehbooba said the move would open up new vistas of employment and income generation for nearly six lakh youth over the next 15 years.
"Government will diversify horticulture and floriculture activities by adopting newer techniques and best practices to survive the onslaught of emerging markets in and outside the country," she said.
Calling upon the farming community to join the pursuit of making Kashmir the 'Fruit Valley of the World', Mehbooba said if only 20 percent of our orchards take up high-density farming over the next five years, the Rs 4000 crore industry would expand five times to Rs 20,000 crores.
Mehbooba said the Government was also increasing capacity of Controlled Atmospheric Stores (CAS) to address shortfall as part of the post harvesting management program for fruits and flowers.
She said the Government would support setting up of vegetable markets and flower nurseries in the private sector that can also help address the growing unemployment in the State.
Mehbooba said various Central and State Sector schemes would be integrated to promote off-season and protected cultivation of vegetables for production of high value and export-oriented hybrid seeds.
Mehbooba said to promote commercial activity in Floriculture sector a national level Flower Festival would be organized at Srinagar in September this year in collaboration with National Horticulture Board.
The Chief Minister said Gardening Training Institutes were being revived and upgraded at Srinagar and Jammu to provide specialized training to the local youth in gardening and landscaping skills.
She said the Department was working on the development of open spaces, mostly in urban areas of the State, to ensure clean and pollution free environment.
"At present the Department maintains more than 485 gardens and parks in the State," she said.
She said while various interventions were being made by Government to ensure quality fruit production, the new generation of horticulturists and floriculturists should create a unified online marketing facility where they would directly sell their produce to the buyers outside J&K to earn good returns.