A glimmer of hope
Agriculture sector in Jammu and Kashmir registered a descent growth last year, while the food processing industry grew over 11 per cent. This speaks volumes about the way agriculture and its allied sectors can help our economy to grow besides make us a self sustaining region.
The agriculture and allied sectors in Jammu and Kashmir were performing much below their potential during the recent years, but the administration has over the past few years announced some measures which ensured boost and growth in key sectors.
Several measures were announced to reverse the declining trend as filling credit gaps, diversification, high-density plantation, building storage capacity, market linkages and extension services were provided to the growers and farmers.
Interestingly, the allied activities in agriculture sector contribute more than 15 per cent to total farm income besides sectors like dairy, livestock, poultry and fisheries can become engines of high growth.
Ironically, Kashmir valley is dependent on its supplies from various parts of India as the area has proven itself to be a consuming region rather than a producing one. For our daily needs like fruits and vegetables and other eatables we have left ourselves on the mercy of outside states as the imports to Valley cross around three lakh metric ton of vegetables alone every year.
Besides, all other daily use items and other necessities too are being fetched on daily basis and this means that most of the cash reserves are being spend on these purchases.
The past few years, especially the last decade has put up a harsh fact that we are increasing our dependency for essential commodities on outside supplies. This includes vegetables and fruits besides mutton, poultry and other products.
Going by the pace of imports and increased demand of supplies every year experts believe that in the coming few years the demand of vegetables in Kashmir would get doubled than what was the requirement some two decades back.
Despite the mammoth import of vegetables to Kashmir still the per capita availability of vegetables is less than the prescribed requirement of 200 grams per person per day. This means that if the health consciousness among the people in the valley rises the imports will witness a quantum jump and thereby increasing our dependence more.
Experts fear that the increasing dependency of Kashmir for vegetables on outside supplies is draining the region’s economy. Besides, the non-involvement of the younger population in the agriculture sector is denying them the benefits of the high returns.
Notably, the administration is forming a high-powered committee of agricultural scientists under the chairmanship of renowned scientist Mangala Rai, to prepare a futuristic blueprint which can be implemented in the next three years.
The steps will not only help to exploit untapped opportunities offered by horticulture and ensuring end-to-end approach from plantation to post-harvest management and processing to marketing which will directly increase quality production and exports.