Himachal Pradesh Government has initiated Rs. 1134 crore an ambitious horticulture development project with the help of World Bank with a view to increase productivity, quality and transform market strategy in the State.

The project will be implemented in the ratio of 80:20 respectively between World Bank and the State Government. The main focus will be on the rejuvenation of existing apple orchards and replacement of old senile orchards with improved variety with high density plantation. About 18,200 hectare new high density orchards will be developed on private land across the State.

A special provision has also been made in the project to develop community irrigation facilities and approximately, 19,560 hectare of project area will be covered under this component to ensure availability of water during summer and critical stages of plant growth. Sustainable horticulture management practices will be promoted by introducing high density, disease free plantation on an average 2400 to 2600 plants/hectare. Comprehensive training and capacity development of farmers and horticulture staff will be undertaken through exposure visits, workshops, practical demonstrations etc.

To facilitate the growers in the high production areas, farmers producers organizations will be formed and provided financial assistance. Agro entrepreneurs in the state will be facilitated through setting up of agro-business intelligence services and financial support under the project for efficient and online delivery of various horticulture related services to the farmers and other stakeholders. This will help in establishing agri-business entrepreneurs in the state to support horticulture industry as a whole.

Fruit production is a major contributor in the GDP of the State and this sector generates significant on-farm and off-farm employment in the State leading to income generation and poverty reduction. Horticulture Sector as whole including fruits, flowers and vegetables generates an annual income of around 7600 crores to the farmers in the State.

At present the apple production per hectare in the State is 6-8 MT as compared to international standard of 35-50 MT per hectare and in some countries about 120 tonnes per hectare.

This ambitious project first of its kind in the State would certainly help the fruit growers and other aspiring progressive farmers to fulfil their dreams of transforming their economy.

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Rahul Bhandari is Editor of TheNewsHimachal and has been part of the digital world for last 15 years.