Apple is the mainstay of 1.70 lakh families across the seven districts of the state and constitutes 49% of the total area under fruit crops and about 85 percent of the total fruit production. Apple is largely produced in the districts of Shimla, Kullu, Kinnaur, Mandi, Chamba and Sirmaur. Now, even in the tribal Lahaul Spiti district, people are taking to apple plantation at large scale.
Area under apple has increased from 40 hectares in 1950-51 to 3,025 hectares in 1960-61 and 1,09,553 hectares in 2014-15 and this shows how dependent the livelihood of major population is on the apple crop, said Ashitosh Chauhan of Ratnari village in Shimla district.
Rich diversity of agro-climatic conditions, topographical variations and altitudinal differences coupled with fertile, deep and well drained soils favour the cultivation of temperate to subtropical fruits in Himachal Pradesh. Due to the special thrust being laid by the State Government on horticulture, the area under fruit production, which was 792 hectare in 1950-51 has today gone upto over 2.25 lakh hectares. Similarly, total fruit production which was only 1200 tonne in 1950-51 has today reached 8.19 lakh tonne.
Although a variety of fruit crops are grown by the progressive and hardworking growers of the State, apple is the mainstay of over 1.70 lakh families across the seven districts of the State and constitutes 49 per cent of the total area under fruit crops and about 85 per cent of the total fruit production. Apple is largely produced in the districts of Shimla, Kullu, Kinnaur, Mandi, Chamba and Sirmaur. People are taking to apple plantation at large scale even in the tribal district of Lahaul&Spiti. Area under apple has increased from 40 hectares in 1950-51 to 3,025 hectares in 1960-61 and 1,09,553 hectares in 2014-15, which shows how dependent the livelihood of major population of the State is on the apple crop.
About Rs 3,500 crore apple economy of Himachal Pradesh is not only the backbone of the prosperity of the State, but it also involves thousands of stakeholders such as transporters, carton manufacturers, Controlled Atmosphere Store/Cold Chain owners, wholesale fruit dealers, fruit processing unit owners etc. from other State. Apple economy is providing gainful employment to millions of people of the region. Apart from it, the apple economy has enormously raised the living standard of the people of the State and credit of this goes to the hardworking apple growers besides, various steps initiated by the State Government such as providing them high yielding varieties of apple and better marketing infrastructure.
The State Government is committed towards holistic solution to address the larger issues of the apple growers. In order to safeguard the interests of the growers during adverse climatic conditions, the State Government has introduced schemes like weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme, which aims to protect crop from natural vagaries. Initially the scheme was launched in six blocks for apple crops and four blocks for mango crops. The coverage under the scheme has been extended during the consecutive years keeping in view the popularity of this scheme. During the year 2015-16, the scheme in being implemented is 36 blocks for apple, 41 blocks for mango, 15 blocks for kinnow, 13 blocks for plum and 5 blocks for peach crops.
In addition to this, 17 blocks have been covered under Add-on cover scheme to protect the apple fruit crop from hailstorm. During the Rabi season 2014-15, 97246 farmers have been covered under the Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme for apple. The apple growers have insured their 61,69,865 apple trees for which the State Government has borne 25 per cent premium subsidy of Rs 9.22 crore. Out of these, 92,423 farmers have been benefitted with a claim of Rs 34.50 crore.
A World Bank funded Himachal Pradesh Horticulture development Project is also being implemented in the State with an outlay of Rs 1115 crore. This Project spread over a period of seven years would focus on providing new technologies to the horticulturists for increasing their crop productivity and capacities. To protect fruit crops, especially, apple from hailstorm, the State Government has enhanced the subsidy on anti-hailnets to 80 per cent.
In order to provide better marketing facilities to the farmers to sell their produce, ten market yards and collection centres has been made operational in the State during the tenure of the present State Government by spending an amount of Rs 27.45 crore. Apart from these, four Sub Market Yards have been completed at Nirmand, Ghumarwin, Palampur Phase II and Palampur Phase-I. Work on three Sub Market yards viz. ChauriBehal in Kullu, Fatehpur in Kangra and Bhadsali in Una district is likely to be completed soon. Work is in progress on six other Sub Market Yards and the State Governmentis also committed to establish 7 Sub Market Yards at Mehandli, Suni, Tutu, Dhalli Phase-II in Shimla district, Parwanoo in Solan district and Dharamshala in Kangra district.
These concerted efforts being made by the State Government to give boost to apple and fruit cultivation in the State is bound to give a new impetus to the agrarian economy of the State.