Himachal Pradesh Government represented by the Himachal Pradesh Horticultural Produce Marketing and Processing Corporation Ltd. (HPMC) today signed an MOU at New Delhi with the Future Group represented by Future Ideas Company Ltd. a leading Business House for providing direct market linkages to the agriculture and horticulture produce of the State across Big Bazaar stores besides exploring possibilities for creating sustainable livelihood opportunities for people in Himachal Pradesh with particular focus on farmers and women empowerment. Chief Minister Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal launched Himachal Yatra organised by the State Government and Future Group at Delhi today to mark the occasion.

Managing Director of the HPMC Madan Chauhan signed MOU on behalf of State Government whereas Kishore Biyani Founder of the Future Group signed for Future Group. HPMC, a marketing agency for fresh fruits and processing of all types of surplus fruits in the State will work with the primary objective of linking existing Farmers Producing Groups and other producers so as to strengthen them through mobilization, market linkages alongwith the formal banking system, linkage with micro finance.

The sector for backward integration, the regions and the beneficiary groups would be jointly identified by Future Group and HPMC after assessing the localized strengths and potential in each region within the State for each of the activities selected.

Future Group would manage the entire supply chain and procurement by itself or through its agents and the quality standards to be set and mutually agreed. HPMC would arrange for financing of decentralized production ventures in name of Farmers Groups, Self Help Groups, Producer Groups, Service Groups and other collectives of poor with existing schemes.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal, Chief Minister said that initiatives to provide direct market linkages to the agriculture and horticulture produce of the State would benefit the farmers of the State at large by showcasing Himachalis products in the Big Bazaar stores in 73 cities and towns and 65 rural locations across the country. He said that State Government was encouraging farmers of the State to compete in the international markets dominated by China at present.

Talking about popularity of organic products in the international markets Chief Minister said that State Government’s endeavour was to promote organic farming in the State. He said that at present, as many as 25,000 farmers have been registered for organic farming in the State and 12,500 hectare area had been brought under organic farming for cultivating cereals, pulses, vegetables, spices, tea etc. He said that organic produce of the State could find markets across the nations and beyond.

Dhumal said that apple, potato, garlic, ginger, vegetables, flowers being cultivated in the State would be promoted under “Brand Himachal”. He expressed hope that this initiative would address the problems of marketing being faced by the farmers of the State. He urged the Future Group to interact with the farmers and acquaint them about innovative techniques to boost the yield to meet the requirements of their outlets besides providing training to them through its skill provisioning agencies. This venture would create 25,000 livelihoods over a period of next 3 to 5 years in the State through its multiple interventions, he said.

Chief Minister said that besides horticulture and agriculture produce of Himachal Pradesh, there was a potential to provide direct retail market linkages to handloom and handicrafts products of Himachal Pradesh. He said that Kinnauri Shawl, Kullu Shawl and Tweed, shirts, woolen stoles and ladies dress material, Chamba Rumal, Indo Himalayan Carpets, Ethnic Dolls, Pullovers, Socks, Gloves, Himachali Caps and Leathers products were in great demand.

Chief Minister hoped that this joint venture of the State Government and future Group would fulfill larger objectives of creating sustainable livelihood opportunities for rural poor in Himachal crating sustainable livelihood opportunities for rural poor in Himachal Pradesh with particular focus on farmers and women empowerment besides projecting the Himachali Brand products on a national platform.

Dhumal said that effective steps were afoot to strengthen the economy of the fruit growers in the State by producing quality produce. Rs. 85 crore ‘Apple Re-plantation Scheme’ had been started from last year in the State to replace the old and low yielding varieties. He said that Himachal Apple was one of the produce to be projected as “Branded Apple”. He said that Apple dominated the fruit production in the State and contributed about 81 percent of the total fruit production. He said that the production of apple had increased from 12,000 metric tonnes in 1960-61 to a record production of 8.92 lac metric tones in 2010-11. The apple industry of the State is making a significant contribution of Rs. 2800 crore annually to the State economy and has transformed the economic status of farmers, he added.

Chief Minister said that keeping in view the significance of agriculture in the economy of the people in rural areas. 12 percent of the total budget of the State was being spent on Agriculture and allied Sectors in the State, which was highest percentage in the Country. The pragmatic approach adopted in the State for development of Agriculture and Horticulture in the State had been appreciated and prestigious magazine ‘Agriculture Today’ on the basis of its best performance had found Himachal Pradesh the best in the Country in a nation wide survey and conferred on it State Agriculture Leadership Award last year.

He further said that ambitious schemes like ‘Pandit Deen Dayal Kisan Bagwan Samiridhi Yojna with an investment of Rs. 353 crores for creating self-employment opportunities, diversification of farming and Rs. 321 crore another ambitious Crop Diversification Project’ being implemented with Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) assistance would go a long way in bringing qualitative and quantitative production of agriculture produce in the State thereby strengthening the economy of the farmers in the State.

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