Kashmiri apples are popular globally. But in order to double farmers' income by 2022, as is the stated target of the government, other horticulture crops also need focus.
High-density plantation of apples, walnuts, cherries, pears, flowers, etc., has the potential to increase the income of Kashmiri farmers by three to four times. This shall be possible only with a much-needed infrastructure push in the Valley. For example, the high-density plantation of apple in Kishtwar and Bhaderwah can add to the apple crop from Kashmir, which fetches good prices in India and abroad. With regard to fruit plantation, a major challenge faced by farmers is the lack of high-yielding varieties of fruit trees. The UT Administration should take up the development of hi-tech nurseries for raising rootstock. High-yielding rootstock can be imported and further developed within the Valley in order to facilitate the farmers.
High-density plantation of apples and other fruits has the potential to increase the income of Kashmiri farmers by three to four times. (Photo: Reuters)
The government must examine the possibility of setting up various indexing labs as per the latest protocol for testing of quality planting material. For boosting farmer income, the provision of infrastructure for post-harvest management is essential. The government must step up the development of cold storage clusters, one each in North Kashmir and South Kashmir. The UT Administration must also pursue Geographical Indications tags (GI Tags) for all premium/niche horticulture produce from Kashmir.
The branding and marketing of fruit crops from Kashmir shall be significantly stronger if they carry the USP of the Valley, which is globally acknowledged for its delicious production. A major push for horticulture production can come from the setting up of Farmer Producer Organisations in the state. Farmer Producer Organisations shall enable Kashmiri horticulturists to achieve economy of scale and find bigger markets for their produce.
A major challenge faced by Kashmiri horticulturists is that they do not have the volume individually to get the benefit of agricultural produce on large scale — both in terms of inputs and produce. Additionally, there is a long chain of intermediaries, through which the horticulturists receive only a small part of the value that the ultimate consumer pays.
After the formation of Farmers Producer Organisations is enabled by the government, horticulture farmers shall have better bargaining power. They shall have access to bulk buyers of produce and bulk suppliers of inputs. In this way, Kashmiri horticulturists shall be able to deal primarily with agriculture and post-harvest processing activities on a larger scale.
The UT Administration must hand-hold Kashmir’s Farmer Producer Organisations and provide them with regular training through premier agriculture support institutions like the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED). With training and support, farmers will be able to increase productivity through the intervention of technology; ensure the best price and market support; mitigate risks, and diversify by venturing into allied activities.
Appropriate branding and marketing of fruit crops and establishment of market linkages for exotic and non-seasonal vegetables and flowers in different metro cities of India will ensure a wider reach for the horticultural produce from Kashmir.
Some initiatives undertaken by the UT Administration are promising and can help the farmers in securing higher income. One such initiative is the Centre of Excellence with a total project cost of Rs 902.1 lakh, which has been sanctioned for Zawoora in Srinagar by the Centre. This is part of the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) Scheme and is being operated through Indo-Dutch collaboration. The Zawoora Centre will serve as a demonstration and training complex. It shall also provide high-quality planting material to the farmers.