The development of horticulture has always been the priority sector of the State Government. The Horticulture industry of the State is presently contributing more than Rs. 4000 crore per annum towards State Gross Domestic Product (SGDP). Apple is the major fruit of the State which accounts for 48 percent (1.04 Lakh Ha) of total area under fruits and 87 percent (8.92 Lakh MT) of total fruit production. Apple is the mainstay of around 1.70 lakh farm families in Himachal Pradesh. Out of 12 districts, apple is commercially being cultivated in 6 districts of the state. The State has achieved distinction in cultivation of apple and grows about 38 percent of the nation’s apple crop.
During the last five decades, Himachal has witnessed a transformation in horticulture development. There is phenomenal increase in the area and production of fruits particularly apple in state due to which the State has deservingly earned a place of pride as ‘The Apple State of India’.
The area under apple cultivation in Himachal Pradesh has increased from 3025 hectare in 1960-61 to 1.04 lakh hectare in 2011-12. Apple crop dominates the fruit production in the State and the production of apple has increased from 12,000 MT in 1960-61 to a record 8.92 Lac MT in 2010-11. Apple industry of the State is making significant contribution of Rs. 3600 Crore annually to the state economy and has transformed the economic status of horticulturists.
Although the area and production of Apple have registered manifold increase, yet the production fluctuates year to year and productivity is low as compared to the advanced countries. The productivity of apple ranges from 6 to 11.5 MT per hectare in Himachal Pradesh in comparison to 35 to 40 MT in advanced countries. The State Government is making strenuous efforts to meet the global challenge and make the apple industry sustainable and competitive in the international trade regime. To enhance productivity and improve quality, ‘Apple Rejuvenation Project’ worth Rs 85 crore is being implemented that envisages replacement of old and uneconomic apple plantations with improved, high yielding, regular bearing and globally popular apple varieties in 5000 hectare area. So far, for covering 1700 ha area under this project funds amounting to Rs. 1190.90 lac have been received out of which Rs. 24.36 lakh have been spent on rejuvenation of apple orchards in 170 ha. area of 349 orchardists. To make this project more feasible and farmer acceptable, the operational guidelines of this project are being modified and simplified.
In order to improve the production, productivity and quality, production of quality plant material is being encouraged through promoting hi-tech nurseries and tissue culture units. Besides this, improved varieties and root stock of apple is being imported from advanced countries which are being multiplied at the departmental orchards for further distribution to orchardists of the State. State Government has imported 10,300 plants of apple (Scarlet Sur, Super Chief, Dorsett Golden and Anna) from France.
Private entrepreneurs are also being encouraged for establishment of procurement and pre-cooling units to facilitate the orchardists in fetching remunerative price of their produce at farm gate. Controlled Atmospheric storages and CA storage capacity to the tune of 20000 MT have been created in major apple producing areas of the State. The infrastructure available with HPMC in terms of grading-packing houses and controlled atmosphere stores are being modernized. To reduce losses during transportation caused due to overfilling of apple fruit in prevalent telescopic cartons, the use of Standard Universal Carton is being emphasized so that apple growers are also protected from financial loss at the hands of middlemen in the market.
In order to bring the horticultural production at par with global standards, the State Government is providing technical know-how and inputs to the orchardists on subsidy through training, extension and advisory service. Every year around 55,000 farmers are being trained through camps and exposure visits. 350 to 400 MT pesticides are aso being supplied on subsidy to control pests and diseases.
State Government is providing good quality anti hail nets to horticulturists on 80 percent subsidy to ensure effective protection of apple and vegetable nurseries from hail. The Government of India has recently released Rs. 16 crores under Horticulture Mission to the State. This is the first installment of funds against the approved outlay of Rs 32 crore for the year 2013-14.
Determined to give the drive to boost fruit production added thrust, the state government has enhanced the procurement price of apple and mango under the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS). Support price of Seedling mangos variety has been fixed at Rs 5.50 per kg and that of Grafted variety increased to Rs 6.50 per kg, which is 50 paise more than the previous year. The State Government enhanced the support price of apple from Rs 6 to Rs 6.50 per Kg for the year 2013.
To carry forward the horticultural activities, an outlay of Rs 202.78 crore has been proposed in the 12th Five Year Plan and Rs. 39.27 crore in annual plan 2013-14 as against an outlay of Rs 34.17 crore in annual plan 2012-13. An area of 2.14 lakh hectares was brought under fruits upto 11th five year plan.
Further, a target to bring 15,000 hect. additional area under fruits to reach a total area of 2.29 lakh hect. has been fixed for the 12th five year plan. Highest fruit production level of 10.28 lakh MT that includes 8.92 lakh MT for apple has been achieved during 2010-11. It is expected that a production level of 11 lakh MT that includes 9.50 lakh MT for apple will be achieved during 12th five year plan. A productivity level of 6.13 MT/Ha. for all fruits and 11.57 MT/Ha. for apple has been achieved during 11th five year plan. It is expected that a productivity level of 6.53 MT/Ha in all fruits and 12 MT/Ha in apple will be achieved during the 12th five year plan.
There has been a remarkable horizontal development of horticulture sector in the State through area expansion. However, there still exists a wide scope for a vertical development by way of diversification, productivity and quality enhancement of horticulture produce. For this, the Government is implementing various schemes for the development of horticulture sector in the State by providing various facilities and incentives. The growth pattern in plan size for horticulture clearly indicates the determination of the present government to strengthen the horticulture industry of the State.