J&K with precision farming eyes Rs 800 cr vegetable turnover

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, December 31: Jammu and Kashmir administration claims that a silent revolution is taking place in the Union territory with a major turnaround in the vegetable cultivation. The UT has in the recent years taken measures to attract investments, which included some high level visits from several countries.

“A major change is brewing in the vegetable sector of Jammu and Kashmir through precision farming intervention which will double the gross output of vegetables from Rs 3982.50 crore to Rs 8021.25 crore per year. The intervention to be carried out over the next five years by the Agriculture Production Department (APD) involves a project cost of Rs 420 crores,” said the UT administration in an official statement.

It stated that commercial vegetable farming has been identified as a key tool in achieving economic prosperity of the farming community through a significant income boost and emphasis is on commercial production of local and exotic vegetables. Additional Chief Secretary (ACS), APD, Atal Dulloo said that J&K has a unique advantage as compared to the rest of the country in that it can undertake year-round cultivation of vegetables and can grow almost every vegetable crop, including exotic ones which are in high demand and have export potential.

“Promotion of vegetables/ exotic vegetables under open and Hi-Tech Protected Cultivation is one among the 29 projects, which were approved by the Jammu and Kashmir administration after being recommended by the UT Level Apex Committee for holistic development of Agriculture and Allied Sectors,” he stated.

Demand for vegetables in J&K is met by both domestic vegetable production valued at Rs 3982.50 crores and imports valued at Rs 636.52 crores annually. “The quality of imported vegetables in terms of nutritional value and freshness however, gets affected due to long transportation and perishable nature of the produce, due to which almost double than the estimated requirement for vegetables is imported and sold at high costs,” said Chowdhary Iqbal, Director Agriculture Kashmir, who is implementing the project in collaboration with SKUAST.

From SKUAST-K, Dr Khurshid Hussain, Assistant Professor, Vegetable Sciences who co-drafted the project proposal said that domestic production of vegetables offers a tremendous scope to make available fresh and nutritionally superior vegetables to population at cheaper prices than current inflated prices. He added that with the proposed new cultivation over a net area of 5,000 hectares, vegetable industry in J&K under open field conditions would produce about 360 thousand metric tons annually worth Rs 720 crores at current price.

“Under the project identification of beneficiaries and cluster formation shall be achieved after proper planning followed by Land Development, identification of specific vegetable crops for specific areas, besides off-season vegetables can be exported to other states taking advantage of natural temperate climatic conditions fetching premium prices for our farmers,” said Dr Hussain.

The project also undertakes intensifying vegetable cultivation through design, manufacturing and establishment of new and improved region-specific-tech structures with automation. “This shall facilitate cultivation of high value vegetables and exotic crops like broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, lettuce, red cabbage, Chinese cabbage, parsley, celery, cherry tomato etc. which possess great demand in domestic and foreign markets as well as tourism industry,” stated the UT administration.

Under the project, 1100 Hi-Tech protected structures over an area of 55 hectares will be established to produce vegetables valued at Rs. 409 crores, said the UT administration, adding that “to overcome dearth or non-availability of high-quality planting material, low cost protected structures in the form of 3584 polyhouses over another 55 hectares will be established complementing vegetable nursery production to capitalizing the early vegetable growing season and enhancing cropping intensity”.

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