Srinagar: Horticulture is a key component of the economy of Jammu and Kashmir, although this industry has recently had difficulties, mostly as a result of unfavourable weather, which Kashmir experienced this year, recording a decline in output and reducing the quality of products.
Bashir Ahmad Basheer, the chairman of the All Kashmir Fruit Growers Dealers Union, spoke extensively with Greater Kashmir about the problems facing the horticulture industry and the solutions and actions that should be taken to address them.
“There is no denying that Kashmir’s horticulture industry is developing correctly. Growers have benefitted greatly from high-density plantations which is good and we should make use of advanced technologies to increase our production. But at the same time, I believe that this business, which generates more than 7 crore mandays and over Rs 10,000 crore in income annually, is given less attention than other industries, which is why our horticulture has not developed as quickly as it might have.”
“A straightforward illustration is the fact that we have been pushing for the adoption of a crop insurance scheme for the horticulture sector for the past few years. Although the government has generally supported it, there were also bids launched to employ an insurance company to protect our fruit harvest. If my memory serves me well, this was done. However, despite some agricultural products in Jammu being covered by crop insurance, the crop insurance plan for fruit crops has not been implemented in Kashmir for years.”
“If there had been a pressing need, it would have been carried out as soon as possible. It would have prevented losses for the fruit growers. This would have undoubtedly aided in the government’s goal of tripling farmer income. This season, our output has decreased by an estimated 40% as a result of bad weather in June and July and the current drought-like conditions. It indicates that if there had been an insurance programme, the poor farmers would have not incurred losses of about 40%.”
“Similar to this, fruit farmers seek that the Marketing Intervention Scheme (MIS), which was first implemented under the leadership of Late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, be reinstated. This MIS system, which gave farmers support for a minimum price, was ultimately abandoned. As a result, they used to get a minimum price for their goods if it was damaged for whatever cause, which served to protect their interests. The government purchased all of the subpar products at a minimum cost, thus it was also utilised to guarantee that excellent produce was delivered outside of J&K.”
“We have urged the LG administration to re-introduce it for the benefit of fruit growers who are suffering losses due to a variety of factors,” he said, adding that “while this year’s price for Kashmiri fruit is good outside markets, unfortunately, production this time is low and also the quality of apple has been affected by drought-like conditions that resulted in stunted growth of produce.”
Bashir who heads an amalgam of fruit growers associations from various fruit-growing areas of Kashmir said that the governments of India and J&K must jointly play a key role in the development of Kashmir’s fruit industry, which employs millions of people in the Union Territory and ensures that Indian consumers can buy fruits at reasonable prices, especially apples.
“We’ve already discussed the increase in duty-free imports of Iranian apples; at this point, cutting the additional duties on US apples is something the government might want to take into consideration while keeping local apple producers’ interests in mind.”
Basheer said that the J&K government has received praise for its high-density farming programme, claiming that it will bring farmers good returns and help them boost their income.
When asked about the issues faced by growers as a result of the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, Basheer stated that the government has played a crucial role in resolving the difficulties faced by fruit growers when transporting fruits through the national highway and this year there are no such issues as our trucks are moving smoothly along the highway to their destinations outside J&K.