Himachal Pradesh fruit production is on the cusp of a revolution . Principal Secretary Horticulture Himachal Pradesh Jagdish Chander said, “We are going in for a complete modernisation of our temperate and sub tropical fruit production which includes apple, pear, cherry, guava, pomegranate, apricot among others with the World Bank assisted Horticulture Development Project.”
“We are moving towards high density farming and slowly shifting from seed based apple plantations to clonal propagated root stock based based plantations. Our production is much lower than what other countries have achieved. If we produce just 7MT – 10 MT per hectare annually other countries have an average production of around 40 MT-50 MT annually,” he added.
Traditionally fruit trees have been raised by seedlings and Himachal Pradesh fruit growers have continued with this practice even though they had started getting poor quality and low yield. Millions of poor quality and genetically inferior seedlings were being planted every year.
To revolutionise fruit production there was need to go in for superior genetically high yielding clonal propagated root stock and Himachal Pradesh horticulture department has now decided to go in for it under the Horticulture Development Project.
“We are going in for high density plantations in the orchards in clusters. If earlier there used to be just 250-300 big trees per hectare we will now be planting 100 to 4000 fruit trees in the same area of a shorter variety from the clonal root stock which we are getting from Italy,France,Holland and other countries. Later we will have our own indigenous plant material,” Mr Chander added.
“These high density plantations will be given adequate irrigation support and other help including nets to be provided on top of the plants so that the crop is not destroyed during hailstorm,” he added.
The World Bank has given a credit support of $ 135 million to the Government of Himachal Pradesh for modernization and expansion of high value horticulture commodity.
The Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Development Project will support small farmers and agro entrepreneurs in Himachal Pradesh, to increase the productivity, quality, and their market access for selected high value horticulture commodities.
Over 150,000 producers, mainly small and marginal farmers of the state will benefit from the project of which about 33% are expected to be women. Given the agro climatic conditions, ability to produce for ‘off-season’ markets, and proximity to consumer markets gives Himachal Pradesh an edge over other states.
Today, 44% of the cropped area in the state is dominated by high value horticulture commodities. However, despite the significant potential of horticulture production in Himachal Pradesh, the state faces a number of challenges which includes limited access to appropriate production technology; an entirely rainfall dependent system; high post-harvest losses, exacerbated by weak storage and marketing capabilities; weak institutional capacity for agro processing among small and medium enterprises; and lack of access to medium and long-term financial capital among others.
Mr Jagdish Chander said, “We are going to bring about a change by spending Rs.210 crore to upgrade the existing machinery and bringing in new and modern machinery for post harvest processing of fruits. Similarly we intend to spend Rs.150 crore on infrastructure to have more grading and packaging units and atmosphere controlled storage.”