The season of dividends
The summer season is at its peak in Jammu and Kashmir and the season has started to pay dividends as the fruit yielding belts in the region are all set to start plucking of different varieties of apples and other produce within a few from now.
Kashmir produces more than 30 lakh metric tons of fruit with a major portion of this produce coming from apples alone. The figures are suggestive of the importance of the horticulture Industry as it proving to be the mainstay of our economy here.
Importantly, Horticulture is one of the largest employment generating sectors in Jammu and Kashmir as one hectare of orchard generates about 400 man-days of work a year. This sector also helps other verticals like transport, pesticides, fertilizers and marketing.
Horticulture sector has witnessed more than 30 percent growth in terms of production during the last decade. As per various economic survey reports, the production of fruits has increased from 16.36 lakh metric tonnes in 2007-08 to 22.35 lakh MTs in 2016-17 and around 29 lakh metric tonne in 2022.
What is noteworthy 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 3.89 lakh hectares.
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 within the country and abroad. The UT 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 region. 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.