Banking on horticulture
The mainstay of Kashmir’s economy, Horticulture is proving to be a game changer for the much stressed economy. During the last fiscal Kashmir produced 24 lakh metric tons of fruit with 21 lakh metric tons being the share from apple crop alone.
Horticulture is one of the largest employment generating sectors of the state as one hectare of orchard generates about 400 man-days of work a year and also helps other sectors like transport, pesticides, fertilizers, marketing and other sectors to grow.
During the last fiscal the state of Jammu and Kashmir produced 24.30 lakh metric tons of fruit out of which 21.61 lakh metric tons were produced in Kashmir division. The growth in this sector is being recorded since the past many years now.
Horticulture sector has witnessed 36 percent growth in terms of production during the last decade. As per economic survey report 2017, the production of fruits has increased from 16.36 lakh metric tonnes in 2007-08 to 22.35 lakh MTs in 2016-16, thus an increase of 5.99 lakh MTs
What is note worthy is that the area under fruit cultivation has been witnessing an increase over the years. The area under fruit cultivation has increased from 2.95 lakh hectares in 2007-08 to 3.38 lakh hectares in 2016-17.
The growth of horticulture sector can be attributed to various initiatives taken by the governments which include mission for integrated development of horticulture, Prime Ministers developmental package and high density plantation programme.
Under these schemes, due attention is being given towards establishment of High Density orchards, better post-harvest management by establishment of fruit mandies and creating controlled atmospheric storage facilities in addition to establishment of Fruit/Vegetables Processing units, technological support, awareness/publicity initiatives, research and extension.
Since this increased activity has resulted in providing an increased number of man days various assessments suggest that around 33 lakh people in the state of JK are directly or indirectly associated with horticulture.
Horticulture development is one of the thrust area and a number of program have been implemented in the past, resulting in the generation of higher incomes in the rural areas, thereby improving the quality of life in the rural areas.
J&K is well known for its horticultural produce both in India and abroad. The state offers good scope for cultivation of horticultural crops, covering a variety of temperate fruits like apple, pear, peach, plum, apricot, almond, cherry and subtropical fruits like mango, guava, citrus litchi, phalsa and Ber etc, besides medicinal and aromatic plants, floriculture, mushroom, plantation crops and vegetables.
Apart from this, well known spices like saffron and black zeera are also cultivated in some pockets of the state. As a result, there is a perceptible change in the concept of horticulture development in the state.
However, what is required is that the government should take a cue and instill confidence among the people who are associated with the sector so that this area of activity prospers to new heights.
The government should aim to generate more employment from this sector by resorting to various innovative measures like exploiting the potential of food processing industry. The industry offers tremendous opportunity as only 1 percent of the produce has been used in commercial processing so far.