In Jammu & Kashmir horticulture industry is one of the big job generators for the youth in this period of crisis. As per Horticulture department around 35 lakh persons earn livelihood from fruit industry and its contribution share to gross state domestic production is 8 percent.
Tech savvy awareness of growers has enhanced the production and quality, and now growers fetch a handsome amount from this industry. In 2020-21 JK got 20.35 lac metric tons of fruit production. The area under fruit cultivation is increasing considerably; presently 3.33 lac hectares of land are under cultivation.
The commonly grown fruits are apples, pear, apricot, peach, cherry, grapes, almond, and nuts; and in certain parts of J&K litchi, lemon and olive cultivation are gaining momentum. 27 percent population is associated with Horticulture. 7.5 lakh families directly get succour from this industry.
The department is vigorously working on popularising high density plantation which has potential to double the yield with highest ever subsidy for growers.
High tech nurseries of new varieties are being established with due subsidies. The national horticulture mission was started in 2004 since then promising results are coming from various schemes and horticulture interventions to ensure sustainable livelihood. The horticulture department in collaboration with various universities and research institutes is providing support for skill development to growers, as commonly the growers are not making optimum use of skills, technology and new approaches of production. The new change in the horticulture sector has opened fresh vistas of growth and many entrepreneurs and enterprises emerged in this sector.
MIDH Mission for integrated development of horticulture helped to percolate the benefit of various schemes to growers and horticulture extension boosts the marginalized and under privileged groups and areas. Under the operation green scheme now the growers are directly and indirectly involved in expansion, establishment of orchards by establishing nurseries, tissue culture technique, adoption of HD root stocks, but technical and expert know-how is pivotal. The industry needs management skills for its exponential dividends. Growers need to bridge the gap between horticulture department and orchard management because for pest management the department advisory will greatly help the control of scabs and allied detrimental factors. Presently the growers are pruning the trees but bear it in mind that for pruning we must have experts. The pruning and canopy management is vital for health, growth and future production of fruits. Soil testing will help us to maintain soil health and soil health cards. Grower must be resourcesfull which is possible when they go for various trainings and refresher modules organized by horticulture department, KVK, Shalimar Agriculture University.
It has been playing key role in horticulture extension and development with latest research in the field also. The horticulture department needs to enhance the horticulture awareness programmes to rope in the growers for benefit of various schemes. The farmer producer organizations FPO clusters can be established which will provide the growers security and opportunities for better results, cost effective and sustainable use of resources, and higher return on their produce. The early establishment and operationalisation of Kisan Call Centers and Krishi Vigyan Centers in every CD block to carry the information and timely guidance to growers is also important. In winters, the Horticulture department must reach out to every CD block so that the mindset of growers can be changed for adopting new schemes and programmes. The Horticulture department has started programmes in various districts, but it must be held in rural areas where the growers need to know about the new techniques. Equitable expansion and inclusive growth is possible when the gap is bridged between experts and traditional growers.
No doubt Govt has introduced new fruits on trials in Jammu and Kashmir like plantation of Aloe Vera, lemon and other fruits which are yielding good results and Govt has targeted to double the return from apple, walnuts and host of other varieties. The growers have to rely on the latest information and approaches, in collaboration with the department. The concerned department must take the rural, marginalized growers on board so that disgruntled farmers will get respite from too much expenses incurred on management of fruits, and the debt load can be easily mitigated. The infrastructure and other facilities must be augmented so that timely storage and transportation can be facilitated and wastage and spoilage of fruits can be minimized. Food parks, and agro based industries need to be encouraged. Irrigation facilities must be provided wherever required under NMMI national mission on micro irrigation; it will boost horticulture coverage.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.