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High-value vegetable farming can transform agriculture into export-oriented venture: Chowdhary Muhammad Iqbal
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High-value vegetable farming can transform agriculture into export-oriented venture: Chowdhary Muhammad Iqbal

Post by on Thursday, June 2, 2022

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In Jammu and Kashmir, nearly 70 percent of the population derives its livelihood directly or indirectly from agriculture sector. In the early years, agriculture was a poor remunerative entity and farmers weren’t getting the optimum returns due to adoption of orthodox and complex methods of cultivations. However, over the years, the agriculture department has been working to push and reform the agriculture sector.


Rising Kashmir’s feature writer, Syeda Rafiyah talks to Director Agriculture Kashmir, Chowdhary Muhammad Iqbal to understand the scenario of agriculture in Kashmir. 


What is being done for promotion of exotic vegetables of local farmers?

Kashmir has the distinction of having a vegetable production season when it is an off season for rest of the country. It provides a unique opportunity for farmers to increase their earnings by stepping into vegetable cultivation.  

Cultivation of Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Asparagus, Lettuce, Red-cabbage offers opportunity for the vegetable growers of Kashmir to cater to the demands in European countries vis-à-vis earning huge farm income. 

High value vegetable cultivation has the capacity to transform agriculture into an export-oriented venture and bring dividends to the vegetable growers.

Until recently exotic vegetables were food of the elite and none of these would have been cultivated here at a large scale. However, domestic production of exotic vegetables viz. broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, lettuce, red-cabbage, has been finding its way into retail shops as well.

The reason is not hard to see. The restaurant industry is booming because of the majority young population, their growing disposable incomes, and a trend towards eating out.

There is greater awareness about international cuisine too. While volumes are picking up, restaurant owners are looking to cut import bills and chefs are exploring ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the dishes they create. Air transport of food implies higher energy consumption resulting in carbon emissions. All this domestic production means substantial earnings for entrepreneurs as exotic lettuce grown in Kashmir could be 30 per cent cheaper than the imported ones. Imported cherry tomatoes can cost Rs 1,000 a kg whereas the domestically produced ones could be priced at Rs 200.

Economic of exotic vegetables cultivation reveals that cost of cultivation of these vegetables grown in an area of 0.506 ha was Rs 26,400.00 which gave gross and net returns of Rs 336,500.00 and Rs 310,100.00, respectively for the year 2011 and 2012. The cost ratio worked out on basis of net returns and cost of cultivation was 1: 11.75, which is a remarkable achievement by a marginal land holding farmer. Motivation and interventions for growing such type of vegetables for higher economic returns is the key for the success of cultivation of Exotic Vegetables.

The agriculture department has, as a matter of policy, adopted various areas on cluster basis to popularize the cultivation of exotic vegetables and provide much needed impetus to the cultivation and marketing of these crops.


How is the department tackling conversion of agriculture land in to construction activities?

At present Section 133-A of J&K Land Revenue Act empowers the revenue authorities to check the Land Conversion. Legislation banning conversion of agriculture land for non-agriculture purposes is presently with the Select Committee of J&K Legislative Assembly.

However, it is a fact that conversion of agriculture lands has taken place because of rapid urbanization and implementation of developmental projects like, roads, buildings, educational institutions and shopping complexes etc. Besides, there has been a large-scale shift in cultivation from agriculture crops to horticulture (Orchards).


There are sub-standard pesticides and insecticides in markets. What is the department doing for it?

The department of agriculture is committed to cease the marketing/availability of sub-standard and spurious pesticides and insecticides. In this regard, we have strengthened our law enforcement wing while regular market checks are carried out.

It has also been made mandatory for all manufacturers/distributors to get prior testing of their products at source and inform the same to the department of agriculture before making it available in the markets. All companies have to seek permission to sell their products to dealers having valid licenses.

Companies are supposed to supply/sell only those products in Kashmir which are recommended by the competent authority. Further, about 1200 quintals of sub standard products have been seized by the department during the current year.


Tell us something about sweet corn or baby corn?

The popularity of sweet corn is fast growing across India due to sweet taste and high nutritional quality. Its consumption at immature stage as boiled ears is a popular practice as the kernels are sweet, creamy, tender, crispy, and almost shell-less.

The awareness about sweet corn in Kashmir valley is also growing gradually and is further increasing with the growth in tourism industry.

Productivity of sweet corn depends on various factors and of all the factors sowing date is probably the most important.

The importance of sowing time has been widely investigated by various researchers, the conclusion has always been that a higher yield can be obtained only if sowing is done neither too early nor too late as in both the conditions the yield of corn is reduced to a great extent. 

In case of early sowing of corn in Kashmir, the temperature remains low and plant doesn’t get the proper conditions for its growth leading to reduced germination thereby decreasing productivity.

While in case of late sowing, the temperature is comparatively higher which shortens the growing period of the plant, thereby decreases the assimilate building of photosynthates by the plant and hence reducing the productivity.

Based on the investigations carried out by various researchers and scientists of Sher-e- Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), Kashmir, it can be concluded that in order to obtain higher yield and higher profit per unit area, sweet corn should be sown from starting May up to May end.


What are the future plans of department for promotion of agriculture?

Agriculture occupies an important place in the economy of Jammu & Kashmir. Nearly 70 percent of the population here derives livelihood directly or indirectly from agriculture sector. In the early years, agriculture was a poor remunerative entity and the farmers were not getting optimum returns due to adoption of orthodox and complex methods of cultivations.

Orthodox Cropping Systems resulting in lesser yields coupled with lesser accessibility to national and international markets were major impediments in promoting agro-based economies and eluded farmers from taking up agriculture for its sustainability.

Therefore, need is felt to reform the traditional agricultural policies and practices by initiating assertive market oriented programs, relevant to the agro-climatic scenario of J&K.

Endeavours have been made to promote scientific agriculture practices in order to bring about major economic transformation by increasing the quantity/ quality of agriculture produce, preserving the unique identity and linking it with the national and international markets so as to make agriculture more remunerative and profitable.  This has improved the socio-economic condition of the farmers.


What area is under organic cultivation in Kashmir?

Organic farming is an alternative agricultural system which originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices. Organic farming continues to be developed by various organic agriculture organizations today.

It relies on fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. 

Biological pest control, mixed cropping and the fostering of insect predators are encouraged. In general, organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances. 

Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic Agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.


What central sponsored schemes are there for the welfare of farmers?

There are various central sponsored schemes meant for the welfare of farmers. These include: Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), National Food Security Mission (NFSM), National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMAET), Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP), National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) , Integrated Scheme Development of Sericulture Industry {Catalytic Development Program (CDP), Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), National E-Governance Plan for Agriculture (NeGP-A), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and National Adoption Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC).

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) was launched in 2015, is an extended component of Soil Health Management (SHM) under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA). PKVY aims at supporting and promoting organic farming, in turn resulting in improvement of soil health. 

The objective is to produce agricultural products free from chemicals and pesticides residues by adopting eco- friendly, low- cost technologies. Key thrust areas of PKVY in promoting organic farming include:

• Promote organic farming among rural youthfarmersconsumers and traders.

• Disseminate latest technologies in organic farming.

• Utilize the services of experts from public agricultural research system in India. 

• Organize a minimum of one cluster demonstration in a village.

The scheme envisages:

• Promotion of commercial organic production through certified organic farming.

• The produce will be pesticide residue free and will contribute to improve the health of consumer.

• It will raise farmer's income and create potential market for traders.

• It will motivate the farmers for natural resource mobilization for input production.

On the other side, the Department of Agriculture is promoting organic farming in a big way and has succeeded in formation of organic villages in all the 10 districts of Kashmir on pilot basis. The include:

• Banagund, Patalbagh and Qazigund in Pulwama.

• Safanagri in Shopian.

• Harnoo, Hawoora, Arigam, Khalshipora in Budgam.

• Shuglipora in Srinagar.

• Dalri Dagripora in Baramulla.

• Ganastan, Watapora in Bandipora.

• Patishalbugh in Ganderbal.

• Hatmulla in Kupwara.

• Bangidar in Anantnag.

• Wazirpora, Makanpora in Kulgam.

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