Horticulture is an age old economic activity in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Kalhana, the great Kashmiri historian, mentioned fruit culture in Kashmir in his famous book Rajtarangani during the reign of King Nara as early as 1000 B.C.
It was, however, during the period of Lalitaditya (900 A.D.) that horticulture in the state received considerable patronage. Subsequently, during the periods of Zainul-Abidin and the Mughals some varieties of fruits were brought from Kabul, Persia (Iran) and Central Asia.
At present the districts of Baramulla, Bandipora, Anantnag, Srinagar and Pulwama have approximately 85 per cent of the total orchards land under cultivation in the state.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir has great diversity in the geo-ecological conditions, which suit ideally to the cultivation of almost all kinds of temperate and most of the varieties of tropical and sub-tropical fruits.
The Valley of Kashmir being in higher latitudes and altitudes generally grows temperate fruits. It grows numerous varieties of apples, apricots, almonds, peaches, cherries, plums, pears, walnuts, melons, and grapes.
The farmers are increasingly concentrating on fruit cultivation and more area is being brought under orchards. It has been observed from last few years that several pasture and forest areas have been cleared and planted with fruit trees.
Most of the apple orchards lie at the altitudes of 1,800 to 2,700 meter above the sea level. In general, the sandy soil does not suit to apple trees as it induces root-bores and pink disease to the orchard. Deep and heavy loams are more suitable for apple orchards as these soils can retain moisture for a longer period.
Some of the important varieties of apples grown in the Valley of Kashmir are Ambri, Delicious, American Teral, Maharaji, Piazratbali, Kesari, and Royal Misri. Pears (Nakh) and peach also grow well in cool and humid climate of the Kashmir Valley. Peach, being highly perishable is not much preferred by the farmers. Pears and peach orchards are well scattered in the districts of Kashmir division.
Apricot (Khubani) requires humid nights and cool weather during the early parts of its growing period and moderately high (about 25°C temperature) during later and the hilly areas of Kashmir below 3,000 m are well suited for apricot orchards.
The subtropical fruits are grown in the plains and low altitudinal zones of the Jammu Division. Among the tropical and subtropical fruits,mango, orange, malta, kinu, mausmambi, plum, papaya, guava, litchi, lemon, and grapes are noteworthy. Nearly 500 varieties of mango, each with a peculiar taste and flavour, are found in the Jammu Division.
Mango takes about four months (March to June) to mature. Mangoes from Jammu region are supplied to Delhi and the towns and cities of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. There were about more than three crore fruit trees in the state.
For a steady expansion of horticulture, the grower must apply the required inputs and should remain vigilant against pests and disease.
In fact, exact scheduling is imperative since most of the fruits and flower crops are highly perishable. Transportation to market must function smoothly to minimize post-harvest losses.
As per the reported data, area under fruits like apple, walnut, litchi, pear, cherry and apricot has increased substantially since 1980, while the area of almond, and peach is shrinking.
On an average, about 40 lakh tonnes of fruits are exported annually. Delhi, Mumbai (Bombay), Chennai (Madras), Hyderabad, Bangalore, Bhopal and the towns cities of Punjab and Haryana are the main markets to which Kashmir export their fresh and dry fruits.
One of the main problems of orchards sustenance is the marketing. The packing and transportation costs are significantly high. Moreover, apple orchard owners are facing a tough competition from the apple growers of Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand. The good varieties of apple like delicious are highly vulnerable to pests.
The farmers have to spray apple orchards four to six times. The high cost of insecticides and pesticides reduces the margin of profit to the apple growers. There is an urgent need to develop disease resistant varieties, failure to which apple orchards have a less promising future in the Valley of Kashmir.
Srinagar is also famous for its dry fruits and spices. Different kinds of walnuts like Kagzi walnuts, wont walnuts, burzil walnuts, and spices like saffron, shah zira and honey are some of the specialties of Srinagar. Hari Market, Raghunath Bazaar and Vir Marg are the places dotted with shops selling papiermache and dry fruits.
Besides Spain, Pampore in Srinagar, is the only place in the world where saffron in cultivated. The Crocus Sativus that blooms for a brief month in the year, has six golden stamens and one crimson. It is the crimson Stamen which when collected and dried, is referred to as the most expensive spice in the world.
However, be wary of the fraudulent Saffron, that too is, available in the markets. Though sealed jars with the government's stamp approval is available, if you are buying the loose saffron, then sampling one strand is enough, for its delectable aroma is unequivocal. Kashmir is also a hub for walnuts, honey and Almonds.
There are lot of problems of cultivation of fruits in Jammu and Kashmir mainly in terms of production, marketing and services. These problems create serious setback to the growth of sector involving employment of member’s households and other services of different set of labour force. It is one of the sector which boost tourism due to the name and fame of the importance of the fruits growing in our state Jammu and Kashmir.
The production of various types of fruits is not at par with latest production technology. The people involved in production of various type of fruits are not aware about how to use technology to improve and growth of the production of the fruits.
There are various schemes and programmes of the government and non-government organizations in which growth and production of fruits of state Jammu and Kashmir can be improved.
These schemes are only in papers and growers are not interested to adopt such techniques and methodologies. The growers think that old is gold, which is major setback for the production of fruits in Jammu and Kashmir.
Other main problem of orchard sustenance are the marketing and various type of services. The analysis of marketing problem is complex in nature. This is so because concept and meaning of marketing widely differs.
However, horticulture marketing comprises all the activities involved in the flow of horticulture produce from the farming to assembling, processing and distributing and secondary services like storage, transportation, grading and standardization, financing, risk bearing and market information.
Against this background, one cannot help but draw conclusion that State of Jammu and Kashmir- has yet to go a long way in putting the horticulture on the modem lines of scientific marketing.,
Keeping in view the above fact, one of the most persistent obstacles to the improvement of marketing system and procedures of horticulture produce- in Jammu and Kashmir State is the production pattern itself. Modern and scientific method of marketing is difficult unless it is accompanied by modem and quality production.
Accordingly, therefore a critical appraisal of the problems has been made in the present chapter. As these problems are complex and varied, the same have been divided into two major sectors to facilitate further discussion. a. problems in production pattern, and b. problems in marketing system.
The packing and transportation costs are significantly high for Jammu and Kashmir State which also is biggest problem for growers. The experts are not yet able to produce such packing materials which are durable and less cost. There is urgent need of attention of packing materials in which growers can save and improve.
More over Jammu and Kashmir has the only source for transporting fruits to other parts of country by road, which is highly costly for thegrowers’ results in wastage of fruits in the storages. There should be a think over alternative mode of transport to state Jammu and Kashmir in which growers can able to improve through cheap transportation.
Our fruits are also wastage due to lack of various manufacturing and food processing industries. The manufacturing sector of Jammu and Kashmir for fruits is very rare which is responsible for less improvement of the production of fruits of Jammu and Kashmir as the life of the fruits of in Jammu and Kashmir is very less.
Author is Director, National Sample Survey Office (Field Operations Division) Regional office, Srinagar