Continuing to be the torch-bearer of Jammu and Kashmir’s economic growth, the horticulture sector in last two decades has shown significant increase as the fruit production in last 18 years has gone up by 14 lakh metric tonnes, similarly the area under fruit production has too swelled by 1.1 lakh hectares.
According to the official figures of the state government, the area under production of fruits in Jammu and Kashmir is currently 3.31 lakh hectares while in 2001 it was just 2.21 lakh hectares thus an increase of 1.1 lakh hectares.
While in last few decades land under agriculture cultivation is witnessing continuous decline, the area under horticulture has seen a huge increase thus a silver lining for the state’s economy.
The figures by the Horticulture Department further show that fruit production in the state has too increased. In2001, the fruit production was recorded 10.9 lakh metric tonnes, however in last almost two decades it has now gone up to 24 metric tonnes. The apple continues to be leader in fruit production.
In the same period, the apple production has doubled in the state. In 2001, production of apple was recorded at 9 lakh metric tonnes which has now increased to 18 lakh metric tonnes.
“It is a known fact that horticulture is the main contributor to our economy, yet it is being meted with step motherly treatment by the state government, which is very unfortunate,” said chairman, All Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers cum Dealers Union, Bashir Ahmad Basher.
Though horticulture sector provides livelihood to around 7 lakh families involving 33 lakh souls thus providing more jobs than government sector, it is getting a raw deal as the budgetary allocation towards horticulture department is not even a 1 percent of the total budget outlay of 2019-20.
Governor administration approved Rs 88,911 crore state budget for the financial year 2019-20, which is expected to give a massive push to public infrastructure in the state. However, out of this massive budget, meagre allocation of estimated Rs 500 crore has been earmarked for horticulture department. Of which Rs 315 crore are kept for capital expenditure and Rs 169.75 crore for revenue expenditure.
The meagre allocation for fruit industry is not new. The sector which has been helping state to earn moolahs is getting meagre budgetary allocations over the years. Annually horticulture sector generates Rs 7000 crore revenue which is by far higher than all other sectors of the state’s economy.
According to budget details, in 2018-19, PDP-BJP government allocated Rs 528 crore, this year the government has enhanced allocation by mere Rs 20 crore leaving a question mark about seriousness of the successive regimes in promoting the sector.
In 2015-16, an amount of Rs 1959.88 crore was approved as grants for agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and cooperative sectors , of which estimated over Rs 500 crore were for horticulture.
According to official figures, horticulture sector generated a total wage employment of 7.71 crore man days in the year 2016-17 under apple orchards and others, coming out as one of the major sources for direct and indirect employment generation in the state.