I am summarising few suggestions for the upcoming budget 2018-19 as below. We should ideally:
Stop distribution of imported fruit plants of apple to the growers without observing the standard Quarantine procedures in terms of which imported fruit plants of any kind/variety should be kept under quarantine observations for at least 2-3 years under isolated conditions failing which our existing fruit plantation will be at the risk of exposure to the diseases, viruses, and insects not known as yet in Kashmir, like Fire Blight of Apple, Codling Moth, Fruit fly etc.
The strategy should be planned to propagate the modern and new market acceptable sweet varieties of apple which is our main fruit supporting our rural economy right in few designated nurseries of Horticulture Department under intensive operations so the dependence of import of fruit plants and rootstocks end somewhere.
Create irrigation infrastructure for already existing orchards by way of augmenting lift irrigation pumping stations, khuls and nallahs where ever possible. This general but simple step of providing irrigation to apple and other fruit trees in rainfed areas will double the fruit production and improve the fruit quality. Funds need to be earmarked for the purpose.
Rejuvenation of old and senile orchards should be taken on extensive scale under expert guidance.
Nutrient Management of orchards is very much unscientific and lacking in the state. Sufficient training and awareness has to be created for the said purpose.
Poor nutrient management leads to production of poor quality fruit with lower yields.
Much has been said about ORGANIC FARMING but on ground level there is not any appreciable support of the government to encourage organic farming. This will help in improving our orchard soil condition as well as will ensure production of health fruits for our health.
Pest management is again a matter of concern.
Mechanization of orchards has to take place on a very large scale due to paucity of labour and saving input costs to make orcharding more cost effective and beneficial.
Post-harvest management is an area of very big concern. Grading and storing of fruits has emerged as a key factor in containing glut of apple in the market. Though a few CA stores have come up but their fruit holding capacity is almost negligible as against 18-20 Lakh MT of apple production. Hence it is a big challenge to be tackled.Earmarking of funds for establishment of more CA stores under PP mode
Fruit Auction Mandies although have provided a big relief to the fruit traders of the state but several basic amenities and facilities are lacking in these mandies.Funds should be earmarked for upgrading them.
Under VAT regime, Agricultural/Horticultural machinery, tools and equipments, fertilizers, pesticides, green house infrastructure, UV film, Drip/Sprinkler system of irrigation infrastructure, apple packing boxes were exempted from VAT and farmers had got a big relief. But unfortunately under GST Regime, all these items have been brought under 12% as well as 18% slabs. Taxation of these essential inputs has broken the hope of the orchardists to improve their economy. As such classifying these inputs under zero slab has to be considered if we are serious about the development of fruit economy.
(The author is Former Director Horticulture/Dir. Floriculture/Consultant State Level Nodal Agency for IWMP J&K Govt.)