STATE TIMES NEWS
Srinagar: Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on Friday said the state is on the cusp of a historic change and the present coalition Government would make the people equal partners in ushering in an era of peace and development. “The Valley has gone through difficult times in the last two-and-a-half decades. But credit must be given to the fruit growers in horticulture sector and craftsmen in the handicraft industry for sustaining the state’s fledgling economy.
“Now, 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,” Sayeed said after inaugurating the state’s first-ever high-density apple orchard set up by a Valley-based entrepreneur, Khurram, at Bamdoora in Anantnag district of south Kashmir.
The Chief Minister said he sets his goals and prefers achieving them silently, while calling upon the people to feel the change happening on the ground.
“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 do not like to win fights and lose friends,” he said.
Calling upon the farming community to join the pursuit of making Kashmir the ‘Fruit Valley of the World’, Sayeed said if only 20 per cent of the Valley’s orchards take up high-density farming over the next five years, Rs 3000-crore industry would expand five times to a staggering figure of Rs 15,000 crore.
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.
Recognising the efforts of youngsters like Khurram in diversifying in the revenue-generating horticulture sector, Sayeed said change would not 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.
Khurram, a young ‘techno-farmer’ with branded concept of Root2Fruit, has scientifically developed his orchard over 42 kanals (over five hectares) 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.
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 Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology (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, Sayeed expressed hope that the shift to high-density farming will open up new vistas of employment for nearly three lakh youth over the next 15 years.
Equating the potential of horticulture sector with that of tourism, Sayeed said fruit industry will be promoted in a flagship mode by laying a sound network of modern Mandis and controlled atmosphere 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.
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