Anantnag, Sep 04 : In a huge step aimed at adopting good agricultural practices for producing high-quality fruit, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Friday morning travelled all the way to a sleepy hamlet of Bamdoora here to inaugurate the state’s first-ever high-density apple orchard, set up by Khurram, a young Valley-based entrepreneur. He urged fruit growers to shift to high-density orcharding to enhance apple production, for greater economic returns on their yield. “Government will diversify horticulture by adopting newer techniques and best practices to survive the onslaught of emerging markets in and outside the country,” he said while handing out an assurance to fruit growers, who had gathered in large numbers at the Model Apple Orchard. Calling upon the farming community to join the pursuit of making Kashmir the ‘Fruit Valley of the World’, Mufti Sayeed said if only 20 per cent of our orchards take up high-density farming over the next five years, the Rs.3000-crore industry will expand five times to a staggering figure of Rs. 15,000 crore. Referring to the difficult times the Valley has gone through in the last two-and-a-half decades, the Chief Minister credited the fruit growers in horticulture sector and craftsmen in the handicraft industry for sustaining the state’s fledgling economy. He said J&K is on the cusp of a historic change and the present Government will make its people equal partners in ushering in an era of peace and development. Asking the people to feel the change happening on the ground, the Chief Minister said he sets his goals and prefers achieving them silently. He said the people in the state have suffered a lot and deserve peace dividend in the form of sustained development and fair and accountable administration. “It is not in my nature to fight. I don’t like to win fights and lose friends,” he stated. Recognising the efforts of youngsters like Khurram in diversifying in the revenue-generating horticulture sector, Mufti Sayeed said change won’t come unless fruit growers are convinced about rejuvenating their orchards by high-density farming. “This is a Live Demonstration of a model apple orchard from which we need to take inspiration,” he said, while praising the huge effort put in by a private entrepreneur in raising the orchard and building a farmers’ consortium that has 3,000 members. A young ‘techno-farmer’ with branded concept of Root2Fruit, Khurram has scientifically developed his orchard over 42 kanals of land with attractive rows of high-quality apple plants, with each carefully provided with four-wire trellis system, anti-hail net and a drip irrigation and fertigation unit. His orchard has started bearing fruit in a brief gestation period of just a little over 15 months. His variety includes Grannysmith, an apple with medicinal value most suited to diabetics. Under high-density farming, 200 root-stocks, presently imported from Europe, are planted over one kanal of land. With each tree yielding 18-19 kg high-quality apple, one kanal of land will produce 4-5 MT of fruit, which is a quantum jump over propagation of apples through traditional farming. Asking the agricultural universities to come out of their “cocoons” and take test results of their research on ground, the Chief Minister said it is ironical that a young boy has taken the lead and shown farmers the way in adopting good agricultural practices. “What Khurram has done at Bamdoora was actually the job of scientists in our universities, whose research-based experiments are heavily funded by the Government,” he said and directed SKUAST to actively involve itself in popularising high-density orchard system amongst fruit farmers. Describing today’s youth as bright and confident who know their brass-stacks well; Mufti Sayeed hoped that the shift to high-density farming will open up new vistas of employment for nearly three lakh youth over the next 15 years. This, he said, will happen if we are able to improve the quality of fruit to boost exports to country and overseas markets. As per available figures, out of the 1.8 lakh MT of apples produced in the state, only 35 per cent are high-quality that can be exported. In comparison, Europe exports nearly 80 per cent of its total apple produce. Equating the potential of horticulture sector with that of tourism, Mufti Sayeed said fruit industry will be promoted in a flagship mode by laying a sound network of modern mandis and CA stores. “Fruit Mandis will be upgraded with facilities of grading and packaging, online marketing and dedicated truck terminals. Similarly, pre-empting increase in apple production, we need to establish a chain of cold storages to increase shelf-life for targeting markets in off season,” he said while stressing upon replicating at other places the cluster of CA stores that has been set up at IGC Lassipora, with an estimated capacity of 32,000 MT. Minister for Horticulture, A. R. Veeri, in his address, said J&K is state with limited resources whose economy primarily depends upon tourism, handicrafts and horticulture sectors. He said the Government is vigorously pursuing policies that will provide more economic return to the fruit growers for their produce. “While market intervention scheme has been revived to improve quality of fruit, the Government is in the final stage of working out modalities to roll outcrop insurance scheme to provide immunity to farmers against vagaries of weather,” he said and added that Government will strengthen laws to effectively deal with those dealing in spurious pesticides. In a bid to familiarize fruit growers with good agricultural practices, the Horticulture Minister said Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture will set up two high-density apple orchards at Anantnag and Baramulla districts. “SKUAST will also set up Demonstration Centres in all the districts of the State,” he added. Ch. Zaffar Ali, Vice Chairman of State Advisory Board for Gujjar & Bakerwal, MLAs, Farooq Andrabi and Abdul Rahim Rather, Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag, Muneer-ul-Islam, Director, Horticulture, Planning & Marketing, S. L. Hangloo, PDP South Coordinator, Mufti Sajad, District PDP President, Sheikh Javed, senior leader, Ab. Salam Reshi and several other senior officers were also present on the occasion.
2015 Kashmir Despatch