The Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly today passed with voice vote the grants of the horticulture department for the year 2018-19, amounting to over Rs 528.33 crore.
The grants for the horticulture were passed after a thorough discussion involving 21 members.
Replying to the discussion on demand for grants, Horticulture Minister Syed Basharat Ahmad Bukhari said the horticulture sector generated a total wage employment of 7.71 crore mandays in the year 2016-17 under apple orchards and others, coming out as one of the major sources for direct and indirect employment generation in the state.
"About seven lakh farming families with a population of 33 lakh souls are directly or indirectly dependent upon the horticulture sector in the state. It is one of the largest employment generating sectors as one hectare of an apple orchard generates almost 400 mandays per year, besides also generating healthy employment figures in horticulture as well as in other allied sectors," the minister said.
He said horticulture sector has significantly expanded over the years with an area of 3.38 lakh hectares presently under cultivation, with production of 23.55 LMTs of which fresh fruit production is 20.75 LMTs and dry fruit production is 2.80 LMTs. It is contributing about 8 per cent to the state's GDP.
"I aim to initiate reformative measures to support the growers so that we can achieve a dominant position in national market," the minister said.
He said the state produces 70 per cent of the national production in apple, 92 per cent in walnuts, 91 per cent in almonds and systematic efforts are underway to further strengthen the state s position in production of fresh and dry fruit.
"A Comprehensive Horticulture Policy is also being formulated for which the department conducted extensive census of existing fruit bearing/non-fruit bearing trees, an exercise due by 36 years," Bukhari said.
The minister said the government has taken an initiative of converting half the quantum of existing land under apple orchards -- 75,000 hectares -- into high density apple plantation to fetch better returns for the growers.
Further, Market Intervention Scheme with the chief minster's intervention has also been launched during 2017-18 in order to prevent C-grade apples from coming to market and to inculcate the discipline of proper grading among growers to fetch better returns, he said.
Additionally, around nine lakh high density plants will be imported in the next year to cover around 320 hectares of orchard area after observing necessary post-quarantine measures, the minister said.
To revive the declining market of dry fruit especially walnuts, a Comprehensive Revival Plan is under consideration, he said, adding the government is also considering establishment of a high-tech, walnut nursery at Zawoora for which a provision has been made in the current year s budget.
The government is also providing 50 per cent interest subvention for a period of five years for walnut processing units from the current year to encourage private participation.
Under public sector, a state-of-art processing and packaging unit of 10,000 MTs capacity with cold storage facility for walnuts is being taken up under Nabard, he added.
Bukhari said that the government is also considering developing nurseries with improved varieties of almonds to boost the sector.
To increase the shelf life of fruits especially apple, controlled atmosphere storage facilities have come up in the state.
(This article has not been edited by Zeebiz editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)