J&K’s agripreneurship will be a story of turnaround’

Govt wants to double agri-GDP contribution in next 5 years: Atal Dulloo
Additional Chief Secretary (ACS), Agriculture Production Department (APD), Atal Dulloo
Additional Chief Secretary (ACS), Agriculture Production Department (APD), Atal DullooFile/ GK

Asserting that the government was aiming to strengthen the agriculture productivity in Jammu and Kashmir with the introduction of new and robust schemes, Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) Agriculture Production Department, Atal Dulloo, in a freewheeling interview with Greater Kashmir Senior Editor, Nazir Ganaie, shares his vision, the current schemes, farmer policies, new agriculture initiatives, and role of high-powered committees on agriculture and allied sectors. Excerpts

Greater Kashmir: What are the major initiatives being undertaken to uplift the agriculture and horticulture sectors in Jammu and Kashmir?

Atal Dulloo: Agriculture, horticulture, and their allied sectors contribute enormously to Jammu and Kashmir's overall development. Over 70 percent of the workforce is directly or indirectly engaged with these sectors, creating a vibrant ecosystem for the welfare of the general masses. The government is aiming to look at subsistence agriculture by leveraging special agro-climatic conditions of J&K for securing high returns to the farmers from transformed and modern, yet sustainable and inclusive agriculture duly supported by the introduction of innovative and globally validated farm technologies, raising the requisite state-of-the-art infrastructure and creation of an enabling ecosystem.

Greater Kashmir: Farmers and orchardists complain that several schemes do not reach the ground. What are the reasons?

Atal Dulloo: I believe that the government has a vibrant system in place. There can be a few loopholes that are being looked into. But the government is primarily focusing to secure a complete transformation in the lives and outlook of the farmers of J&K from subsistence to modern, vibrant, and high-return agriculture by the end of the year 2023. The agriculture extension officers are being trained and guided to dispel the image of agriculture as a means of sustenance and to promote in a big way agripreneurship as a means of high return and respectable employment. For this, we have a vibrant mechanism in place which gives ways for the youngsters to enter this sector with dignity. The government is also making extra efforts to aggregate farmers, particularly youth and women, into Interest Groups (FIGs) and Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) in product-specific clusters to meet the objectives of Atamnirbhar Bharat. This is all done to make the most of funding and opportunities available under various CSS for securing the welfare of farmers of the Kashmir and Jammu regions.

Greater Kashmir: Government recently constituted an apex committee under the chairmanship of Dr Manglarai who will be giving their expert comments and recommendations on the agriculture sector. What is its status?

Atal Dulloo: Yes, sanction was accorded to the constitution of a Union Territory-Level Apex Committee (UTLAC) for framing a comprehensive agriculture policy for holistic development of agriculture and allied sectors of J&K. The committee works under the chairmanship of noted scientist and former DG ICAR, Dr Mangala Rai. The objective of the committee is to transform the sustenance of agriculture into a sustainable agri-economy through the investment of knowledge, technology, and capital. The committee has been asked to direct and monitor the timely working of the Technical Working Groups (TWGs) and said that it would act as a strategic advisory committee at the apex level. The committee will either meet physically or virtually for drawing the broader contours of the strategic roadmap for the growth and development of agriculture in different activities on which the respective domain TWGs will work upon.

Greater Kashmir: Farmers are demanding welfare schemes and new technological interventions. What is the government doing in this regard?

Atal Dulloo: Increasing production and productivity and return on investment in agriculture for the welfare of the farmers is the sole motive of the government and we are working for strengthening the nursery sector and also introducing new seed varieties. This will not only give impetus to the overall agricultural and horticulture sector but also enhance the general income of our farming community. The government is also making efforts to make the farmers aware of the latest inputs and innovations in agriculture and guide them through the entire cultivation cycle to grow crops both for their captive as well as commercial consumption.

Greater Kashmir: What is the status of centrally-sponsored schemes? Do they reach a common farmer in every village?

Atal Dulloo: The government is strictly implementing all the centrally-sponsored schemes on the ground in the agriculture sector. We are providing HYV seeds and hybrids and quality planting material and also carrying out the promotion of soil health through Integrated Nutrient Management and the use of Soil Health Cards. Besides that promotion and diversification in cropping, farming systems, and organic farming are done regularly. Special focus is being laid on the creation of irrigation infrastructure (Per Drop More Crop and Har Khet Ko Pani).

Greater Kashmir: Farmers are also seen getting into post-harvest management practices. How is your department keeping track of it?

Atal Dulloo: Promotion of post-harvest management practices, integrated pest management, and prevention of post-harvest losses is highly needed for the sector to grow and prosper. Besides that, the creation of post-harvest infrastructure in agriculture such as warehousing, cold chains, refer-vans, and mandis is vital. I have directed officials on the ground to maintain a strong bond with the farming community and also help them grow by addressing their day-to-day issues. The government is promoting farm mechanisation with a special focus on hill agriculture and also linking farmers with National Farm Market through e-NAM.

Greater Kashmir: Are there any other activities undertaken by the government for the welfare of the farming community?

Atal Dulloo: We are aiming to further boost the growth of the agriculture and horticulture sectors and in this regard, several collaborations are done to undertake training, technology, capacity building, and extension activities for the farming community of J&K. Promotion of ancillary activities by the department such as mushroom, bee-keeping, fisheries, dairy, small ruminants, poultry, farm-forestry, and vermicomposting has become a routine duty for our officials and it is bearing really good fruits. The government is also keen to widely promote value addition, branding, tagging, agripreneurship, and micro-food enterprises. The promotion of off-season vegetables by protected cultivation (Greenhouses, Net Houses) has given farmers an upper hand. Also, the availability of social schemes like PM-KISAN, PM-Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana, and crop insurance schemes have made our farmers independent and self-reliant.

Greater Kashmir: Has the J&K government kick-started the digital agriculture mission?

Atal Dulloo: We are working on it. We are keenly working to provide agriculturists with the latest technology and trends. Under the digital agriculture mission, we are planning to provide farmers with precedent farming so that farmers remain updated and get advisories about their crop’s concerned sectors. This will help us in giving integrated farming a new boost.

Greater Kashmir: Where do you see J&K’s agriculture sector in the next 5 years?

Atal Dulloo: Agriculture and its allied sectors have immense potential. If you see the country’s 70 percent apple produce, 95 percent walnut produce, and 90 percent trout are from J&K. Jammu Basmati, Kala Zera and apricots are our specialties. The quality of our sheep is the best in the country and we are again in the process of getting new breeds from New Zealand. J&K also produces high-quality silk and high-quality wool. Many gaps need to be plugged in and fixed on an immediate basis. The government has set goals and targets for the next 5 years and among others includes doubling the contribution of agri-GDP in the next 5 years from 4 billion USD to 8 billion USD. Other goals include meeting 100 percent SRR with quality seeds by building seed multiplication chains in PPP or through private entrepreneurship and doubling resource use efficiency from 30 percent to 60 percent in respect of nutrients and moisture by bringing in advanced technologies.

Also, the goals include reducing food waste by one-third (10 percent) through proper post-harvest management by building suitable infrastructure (CA stores, pack houses, refrigerated transport) and food processing, tripling food processing from 5 to 15 percent by focusing on secondary agriculture. Build capacity to meet the requirements of the quality planting material and establish 300 functional and profitable FPOs in 20 districts of J&K. Besides, the goals include availing Agriculture Infrastructure Fund of Rs 900 crore reserved by the Centre for J&K, vocational skill training for 2000 youth annually for next 5 years and building state Data Banks using Artificial Intelligence and ICT tools for apple, dairy, and small ruminants in next 5 years and reducing the use of agro-chemicals by 25 percent in next 5 years.

Greater Kashmir: Several works are being carried out in horticulture. How do you rate its performance?

Atal Dulloo: We have specialties and that is not just with the agriculture sector. Our horticulture can change the overall story of J&K. I keep reviewing the status of works being carried out under CAPEX, NABARD, Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), and centrally sponsored schemes, and to assess other deliverables of the Horticulture and Agriculture Departments. Newly allotted works including establishment of walnut nurseries, strengthening of existing nurseries, subsidies under PARVAZ, and interest subvention for walnut processing units are being monitored daily. Several steps are needed for soil health management, issue of Soil Health Cards, strengthening of irrigation systems, organic farming, protected cultivation, and post-harvest management. The centrally-sponsored schemes including Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), PM KISAN, and Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) have given impetus to the farming community.

Greater Kashmir: Some of the insiders in your department say the Agriculture and Horticulture Departments need to reshuffle at the district level and works are being hampered by vested interests. Do you agree?

Atal Dulloo: During my recent meeting, I directed the finance sections to gear up the release and expenditure of funds. I directed them to seek necessary clarifications and get the funds released within a week for the timely execution of developmental works in the horticulture sector. Directions for releasing funds to JKHPMC were also passed by the ACS. The honest efforts of the government are on to bring agricultural reforms and provide maximum benefits to the farming community. Research and technical intervention will bridge the gaps in value addition and supply chain infrastructure and help in reducing high post-harvest loss. J&K’s economy and 70 percent of the population is dependent on it. In this year’s budget, as mentioned by Lt Governor Manoj Sinha Sahab, Rs 2835 crore has been allocated for agriculture and Rs 646 crore for the horticulture sector. Besides, for the development of the dairy and sheep sector, Rs 392 crore has been allocated separately so that positive changes can be made in the lives of the farmers and the progress of villages can be given a new direction altogether.

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