‘High density apple plants can be a game changer’

Traditional apple plants are known to have an average yield of 10 to 12 metric tonnes. But we have seen that wherever high density plants are planted the yield increased to 40 to 50 metric tonnes.  Therefore, it becomes necessary to shift high density cultivation says Director Horticulture production, Manzoor Ahmad Qadri in an interview with Ziraat Times’ Business Development Manager, Saba Reshi.

 

Tell us something about your early journey and education?

I belong to a far-flung village in Pahallan of district Baramulla. From where I had my basic education. Later, I completed post graduation and MPHIL for Kashmir University.

What was your motivation in the early life?

Everybody in this universe has some goal or motivation. During my schooling days there used to be a teacher named Farooq Ahmad Peer, he used to teach us and was liked by all the students in the school. He qualified Kashmir Administrative Services examination in 1984, and went on to become assistant director CAPD. He became our motivation as he was among one of us. It was a motivating factor which made me think that when he could quality KAS why can’t I do it.

It was a starting factor. Then after completing my studies, I was appointed as lecturer in Education department where I worked for 6 years, later I qualified KAS in 1998.

Being posted as Director Horticulture Production Department, how challenging is this assignment for you?

As an administrative officer we are being assigned different roles. It is nothing new to me. Earlier I was posted as Director, Horticulture Planning and Marketing, and now this job. Both are related to each other so I don’t find it any challenging.

What is your vision for management and growth in the Horticulture Department?

There are two things which are necessary for running this department. One is implementing new technologies and the other is preserving germ plasma bank. Our focus should be on implementing new technologies in the field of horticulture. Currently, our traditional apple plants give yield averaging 10 to 12 metric tonnes. But we have seen that wherever high-density plants are planted the yield increased to 40 to 50 metric tonnes. Therefore, it becomes necessary to shift high density cultivation.

Further it has been observed that our traditional plants produce 30 percent grade C apples , but in new technology, there is less than 10  percent of c grade apple. Therefore, it is necessary to shift from old to new technology as it would increase farmers increase manifold.

But for that we need to develop infrastructure and investments by the orchardists. We need assured irrigation currently most of our orchids are in karewas. For that orchardists need to invest to get better returns.

Other issue confronting our horticulture currently is declined demand quality of walnut. We have 2.5 lakh metric tonne walnut production a year. But in this we need to improve our quality. For that high density walnut trees are needed and we are working to develop it. We have imported some stuff from California which are under our observation. If we are able to introduce high-density walnut plants,  prices of walnuts will automatically go up, which is not the case currently as our walnut prices are going down.

Another issue confronting horticulture is dearth of CA store capacity. We are having annual 19 lakh metric tonne production of apple. Out of which 14 to 15 lakh metric tonne is transported outside. But we need at least CA stores having capacity to stock around 5 lakh metric tonnes of apple. Out of which we have only 1 lakh capacity, which forces farmers to sell their produce during times when there is distress. Today we have distress sale which brings downs rates as demand and supply dynamics is not in favor.

How is the Horticulture Policy shaping up?

Earlier, we didn’t have the horticulture policy. We didn’t know how many fruit trees we have. By the direction of Hon’ble Horticulture Minister, we did census of fruit trees which has been documented on the basis of which horticulture policy will be devised. We have experts who are working on the policy.

High density apple trees are mostly imported from outside the country, which is very expensive. Why aren’t we able to produce them here?

High density plants cannot be produced locally. We import rootstock, then multiple graft it. Then it is distributed among the farmers. At Zainapora Horticulture Development Centre last year around 1 lakh high-density plants were created, which are under quarantine process. Any plant brought from outside are put under observation for 1 year, to study whether the plant contains any diseases or pests as it could cause damage to the horticulture industry.

What are the steps taken by the department to ensure that diseased imported plants don’t cause damage to our horticulture sector?

At Zainapore  Horticulture Development Centre, we have quarantine facility where2600 kanals of land are dedicated for this facility to study and observe imported plants. Even private players who import plants on their own are asked to keep their import plants under quarantine facility.

Tell us about the Apple Year 2018 that is being observed by the Horticulture Department. 

There are a lot of activities which we have to do. It includes media campaign, branding etc. Last year CM while launching apple year stressed that 2018 will be observed as apple year.

What is your advice to young entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into agri-business?

Horticulture sector has a huge potential. They should venture into this sector. They could start by establishing nurseries if they don’t have oyther avenues. If they have sufficient land they can start high-density orchards. Then you can also venture into post-harvest management by establishing CA stores. Value additions like food processing units are also other sectors where young entrepreneurs can invest.

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