A major change is brewing in the Vegetable sector of Jammu and Kashmir through precision farming intervention which will double the gross output of vegetables from Rs. 3982.50 Cr to Rs. 8021.25 Cr per year.
The intervention which shall be carried out over the next five years by the Agriculture Production Department (APD), shall involve a project cost of Rs 420 crores.
“Commercial vegetable farming has been identified as a key tool in achieving economic prosperity of the farming community through a significant income boost and the Agriculture Production Department has laid a great emphasis on commercial production of local & exotic vegetables”, said Additional Chief Secretary (ACS), APD, Atal Dulloo. He further said that J&K has a unique advantage as compared to the rest of the country in that it can undertake year-round cultivation of vegetables and can grow almost every vegetable crop, including exotic ones which are in high demand and have export potential.
‘Promotion of Vegetables/ Exotic Vegetables under Open and Hi-Tech Protected Cultivation’ is one among the 29 projects, which were approved by the Jammu and Kashmir administration after being recommended by the UT Level Apex Committee for holistic development of Agriculture and Allied Sectors in UT of J&K. The prestigious committee is headed by Dr Mangala Rai, Former DG ICAR and has other luminaries in the field of Agriculture, Planning, Statistics & Administration like Shri Ashok Dalwai, CEO NRAA, Dr. P. K Joshi, Secretary, NAAS, Dr. Prabhat Kumar, Horticulture Commissioner MOA & FW, Dr. H. S Gupta, Former Director, IARI, Atal Dulloo, ACS, APD, apart from the Vice Chancellors of the twin Agriculture Universities of the UT.
Presently, demand for vegetables in J&K is met by both domestic vegetable production to the tune of 1991.25 thousand metric tons worth Rs 3982.50 crores and imports of another 318.26 metric thousand tons valued at Rs. 636.52 crores annually. “The quality of imported vegetables in terms of nutritional value and freshness however, gets affected due to long transportation and perishable nature of the produce, due to which almost double than the estimated requirement for vegetables is imported and sold at high costs”, said Chowdhary Iqbal, Director Agriculture Kashmir, who is implementing the project in collaboration with SKUAST.
From SKUAST-K, Dr Khurshid Hussain, Assistant Professor, Vegetable Sciences who co-drafted the project proposal said that domestic production of vegetables offers a tremendous scope to make available fresh and nutritionally superior vegetables to population at cheaper prices than current inflated prices. He added that with the proposed new cultivation over a net area of 5,000 hectares, vegetable industry in J&K under open field conditions would produce about 360 thousand metric tons annually worth Rs 720 crores at current price.
“Under the project identification of beneficiaries & cluster formation shall be achieved after proper planning followed by Land Development, identification of specific vegetable crops for specific areas, besides off-season vegetables can be exported to other states taking advantage of natural temperate climatic conditions fetching premium prices for our farmers”, said Dr Hussain.
The project also undertakes intensifying vegetable cultivation through design, manufacturing and establishment of new and improved region-specific-tech structures with automation. This shall facilitate cultivation of high value vegetables and exotic crops like broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, lettuce, red cabbage, Chinese cabbage, parsley, celery, cherry tomato etc. which possess great demand in domestic and foreign markets as well as tourism industry.
Under the project, 1100 Hi-Tech protected structures over an area of 55 hectares will be established to produce 59.40 thousand metric tons of high-value & exotic vegetables valued at Rs. 409 crores. To overcome dearth or non-availability of high-quality planting material, low cost protected structures in the form of 3584 polyhouses over another 55 hectares will be established complementing vegetable nursery production to capitalizing the early vegetable growing season and enhancing cropping intensity. An essential component to bring about this revolutionary change in vegetable production scenario involves research and development for designing new varieties and production technologies.
The vegetable production plan shall be in tight consonance with market requirements, transport and linkage value chains, through signing of MoU’s with Private (National/Multinational) Fresh Vegetable Retail Outlets and Public Sector Undertakings (Agro-Industries & JKHPMC).
A huge stress has also been laid on training of entrepreneurs for successful business venture in JK, said Mr. Sheikh Imran, Technical Officer at Directorate of Agriculture, Kashmir. The project shall create around 4700 enterprises and provide gainful year-round employment for 47,250 persons.
The agriculture department in collaboration with SKUAST-Kashmir shall be implementing this project, with the objective to resolve currently increasing vegetable deficit problem in J&K with a major focus on exporting high value exotics, besides supporting indigenous tourism industry where such vegetables are much sought after. (KNS)