Shimla: New Zealand High Commissioner Joanna Kempkers along-with other delegates met Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur at Oak Over today and discussed various issues of horticulture and related industry.

Welcoming Joanna Kempkers and others, the Chief Minister apprised the New Zealand delegates about the horticulture practices in the existing orchards besides expanding it in other districts like Mandi, Chamba and Sirmaur.

He said he was grateful to Government of India and World Bank for having agreed to fund Rs. 1134 crore Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Development Project for the state to support the introduction of new technologies in horticulture sector.

The Chief Minister said that the road map of “High-Tech” horticulture would not only revolutionize the horticulture sector in the state but also ameliorate the fate of Himachali fruit growers for a better and prosperous tomorrow. He expressed happiness over the progress made by New Zealand in producing high quality apple per hectare, which remarkably averages around 65 MT per hectares and New Zealand was providing technical knowhow to as many as 60 to 70 countries. The CM said

“I am hopeful that the experts from New Zealand shall extend the technical knowhow to the experts of Horticulture department and the peasants in my state for better socio-economic returns and upliftment of the lives of the common man and by joining hands with farming expertise from New Zealand, one of the world leading fruit producers, will certainly help the fruit growers of Himachal in big way”

Jai Ram Thakur said his government was fully aware of the challenges the growers were facing. Threat of climate change world-wide had forced fruit growers to adapt the new innovations in crop diversification. Rejuvenation of traditional, old and low productive orchards in present scenario was the need of the hour.

Thanking the Himachal Pradesh Government for its positive engagement, New Zealand High Commissioner Joanna Kempkers said that the decision to contract New Zealand experts was a recognition of our world-class horticulture industry that was known for its high productivity, fruit quality and innovation in apple production.

She added that this project was a welcome progression to the long-standing association of New Zealand experts with horticulturists of the State. She said that New Zealand and Indian apple farmers were not competitors in the market but partners. It was a pleasure for consultants to be engaged here, she said as it would help in improving the productivity and management of orchards and contribute to creating more jobs and bettering livelihoods.

New Zealand’s entire horticultural sector was globally renowned for being innovative, sophisticated, and highly productive, backed by sound science and world best practices.

The New Zealand apple and pear industry has the highest productivity in the world, averaging 65 metric tonnes per hectare per annum which is more than 50% higher than our nearest competitor. World’s best production and post-harvest systems and practices have earned the industry an international reputation for producing fruit of the highest quality. This project will provide growers in the Himachal Pradesh province of India with access to New Zealand expertise to help improve the productivity of their orchards in terms of both yield and quality, and subsequently generate better returns for their growers.

Horticulture Minister Mahendar Singh Thakur said the focus should also be on sub-tropical areas as well and not to be concentrated to a particular pocket or region of the state. He said the government was to improve economic conditions of small and marginal farmers of the State that accounts around 85 percent of the total fruit growing farmers in the State including 33% women farmers. He hoped the approach of community participation and scope of self-employment generation such as agri-business promotion facility and Community Service Centres were the key factors of the project that will bring smile on the faces of our State Fruit Growers.