Unachieved Potentials in Kashmir

Agriculture is a significant income and employment-generating sector of the Kashmir economy. Approximately two-thirds of the state’s population lives in rural areas and depends directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihood. The sector supplies raw material to the industrial sector and is an essential demand for its products. Experience shows that periods of high/low agricultural growth coincided with periods of robust/poor national economic performance. Although the share of agriculture in GDP has declined due to the ongoing structural adjustment process, its performance still significantly influences overall economic performance due to its linkages with the rest of the economy. Higher and sustained growth in agricultural production is essential for the rapid development of the economy and the reduction of poverty in Kashmir. The expansion of cultivated areas, increased use of water and other agricultural inputs, increased crop intensity, technological change, and efficiency level are important factors that can lead to higher agricultural production.

The potential for allocating more land and water resources to agricultural production and the scope for further increases in crop intensity is widely maintained to be limited in Kashmir. Besides, it is impossible to increase the use of inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides beyond certain limits as well as health and environmental concerns. To achieve the desired rapid agricultural growth, Kashmir would have to rely more heavily on technological changes and technical efficiency improvements. Research and development (R&D) efforts are the results of technological change. Simultaneously, the technical efficiency with which new technology is adopted and used more rationally affects the flow of information, improved infrastructure, availability of funds and quality inputs, and the management capabilities of farmers.

The main factors affecting the efficiency of agri-sector are the imbalanced use of fertilizer nutrients, lack of integration with organic sources and poor management. The efficiency of fertilizer use is also adversely affected by other factors such as salinity/soil acidity, water logging, and soil moister stress. Use of low harvesting and post-harvesting technologies to handle agricultural production results in a substantial loss of income in terms of loss of quantity and decreased value due to lower prices and quality fading. Post-harvest losses range from 15 to 60 percent for various fruits. Due to external and internal injuries occurring during harvest, losses are high in most of the fruits. Usually, the fruits and vegetables are packaged in jute sacks, used fertilizer bags, and wooden crates. Quality is rapidly deteriorating due to extreme heat, high humidity and improper packaging conditions, resulting in high losses. Most of the losses occur during transport and marketing, particularly in the case of apples, farmers lack information about their farmland soil nutrients, and more nutrients are extracted with each harvest than added, resulting in a negative balance. The strategy for higher agricultural growth on a sustainable basis, together with other complementary measures such as cross-subsidies on DAP fertilizers, must address soil nutrient mismanagement to make relative nitrogen fertilizers  cheaper. The primary factor causing high market level losses is the lack of adequate storage and cold storage facilities in wholesale markets.

Most farmers in Kashmir, particularly those operating marginal and small farms, generally lack access to quality inputs and extension services (physical and financial) and generally have to pay higher prices. Increasing farmers’ access to these inputs and services would improve agricultural production. The government’s massive intervention in agricultural markets did not allow market forces to play their part and failed to provide producers with appropriate signals and incentives for private investors.

The Conclusion:

While conventional breeding needs to be continued in the future, it no longer offers any breakthroughs in the potential for yields. It addresses newly emerging complex problems such as pests, diseases and drought stress. To increase crop and livestock productivity, improve nutritional quality, increase crop tolerance against biotic stresses, and improve crop resistance to pests and diseases, the implementation of recent advances in agricultural biotechnology is therefore crucial. Modern biotechnology instruments are more precise and require a shorter time for new strains of improved crops and livestock to develop. The next breakthrough in farm productivity is expected to be due to recent developments in plant molecular biology, genetic engineering, and rapid genomics progress.