A National-level conference on the distinct problems of the apple producing states of North Western Himalayan States will be organised in last week of September next, said Narinder Bragta, Horticulture Minister after meeting with Union Agriculture Minister at New Delhi today. He said that Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has agreed to be Chief Guest in the conference and the Horticulture Ministers of the North Western States, agricultural scientists, fruit growers and the agriculture seed and pesticides companies and other stakeholders would actively participate in the function.

A high-level delegation under the leadership of Narinder Bragta, who is also Chairman of Horticulture Ministers Forum of North Western States met Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to discuss the difficulties being faced by fruit growers of the Himalayan States. The Horticulture Ministers of Uttrakhand Trivender Singh Rawat and Jammu and Kashmir Shyam Lal Sharma and Members of Parliament Saifudin Soz and Anurag Thakur were Members of the High-level delegation

Narinder Bragta said that Union Agriculture Ministry has taken up the various issues like enhancement of import duty with Union Commerce Ministry and find a viable solution of the apple growers of the region. He said that around 32 lakh metric tonnes annual apple production is recorded in the country out of which 25 lakh MT annual production is recorded in two major States of Himachal and Jammu and Kashmir. He said that apple is only major commercial crop of the region and bulk import from China and other countries had hit the economic interests of the apple growers and demanded immediate remedial measures in this regard.

Horticulture Minister said that Union Agriculture Minster has agreed to sanction funds under “Terminal market complex scheme” for the Rs.100 crore cost model fruit and vegetable market being set up at Parala in Shimla district and added that High-level official meeting would be held soon for detailed discussions on various components. He also requested for central grant of Rs. 10 crore from Ministry of Food Processing for apple juice concentrate plant being set up at Gumma in Shimla district.

He said that Union Government has agreed to transfer the mechanical grading and packaging of apple to State Government from National Horticulture Board keeping in view of the demand of the State Government. He demanded that ceiling of coverage under the crop insurance scheme should be raised from present Rs. 1000 per plant to Rs. 3000 per plant and further requested that Central Government share in Crop Insurance Scheme should be raised to 65% and the farmers share reduced to 10 % only keeping in view of small land holding of the hilly farmers. He demanded the exemption of tree spray oil from excise duty to make it affordable to the farmers keeping in view of steep hike in the prices of the chemical from Rs. 8000 per barrel to Rs. 20000 per barrel in recent past.

Horticulture Minister demanded that apple should be categorized as special horticulture produce keeping in view of its commercial importance to the apple growers and demanded liberal financial assistance for research and quality improvement of the fruit crop.

Union Agriculture Minister appreciated the installation of anti hail gun in fruit growing areas of Himachal Pradesh and asked the other States to follow the Himachal model in this regard. He offered liberal financial assistance for setting up of anti hail guns to provide cover to the fruit growers from natural calamities.