Govt gives in-principle nod to first-ever horticulture policy

Shimla, August 1

The government has given an in-principle approval to the first-ever horticulture policy of the state.

"The government has approved the draft and sent it back to the Horticulture Department. The draft will be soon laid in public domain to seek suggestions/objections from stakeholders," said Horticulture Secretary Amitabh Avasthi.

As one of its major objectives, the policy aims to diversify fruit production in the state. At the moment, apple accounts for more than 80 per cent of the fruit production.

"The policy aims at converting Himachal from the apple state to a fruit state," said a horticulture official. To achieve this objective, the department will adopt a cluster approach to boost the cultivation of other fruits along with apple.

"Just as apple clusters have been formed under the World Bank-funded the horticulture development project, areas will be identified where there is a potential for growing other fruits. These areas will then be put under cluster cultivation," said the official.

Efforts are already afoot to boost the cultivation of sub-tropical fruits at lower elevations in the state through project SHIVA, which is funded by the Asian Development Bank.

The policy stresses on the use of latest technology and techniques like drip irrigation, high density plantation, etc. for better quality and yield of the fruit.

Compared to the developed horticulture nations, the per-hectare production of fruit in the state is very low and the policy aims at addressing this huge gap in production.

Also, technology will be used to make the entire system transparent and accessible to all fruit growers. Relevant information would be put up on the department's website, ensuring prompt, transparent and impartial services to the growers.

According to the official, the policy will look to create infrastructure like marketing yards, CA stores, processing units, proper roads in rural areas etc to help growers get better value for their produce. "Besides, foreign markets will be explored for exporting fruit," he said.

Besides, focus will be laid on preparing nurseries for planting material of all fruits. Currently, much of the planting material of most fruits is coming from abroad and the policy advocates to cut down foreign dependence on this front.

Cluster cultivation to be promoted

Just as apple clusters have been formed under the World Bank-funded horticulture development project, areas will be identified for growing other fruits. These areas will be put under cluster cultivation. —A horticulture official

Courtesy: Tribune News Service

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