Last week, the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MoA&FW) approved an ‘Apple Cluster’ for south Kashmir’s Shopian district under Cluster Development Programme.
It envisages development of Shopian Apple on three verticals including pre-production-production, post-harvest management and value addition and logistics, marketing and branding to make it globally competitive.
According to the officials, the Agriculture Production Department, with the technical support of National Horticulture Board and Grant Thorton (Ministry’s Consultants for the CDP) invited RFPs for selection of Implementing Agencies (IAs) to execute the verticals in Shopian district. The project is estimated to cost Rs 135.23 crore, of which, about Rs 37.05 crore would be provided by the MoAFW as grant- in- aid. The IA shall provide an equity to the tune of Rs 29.91 crore and raise a term loan of Rs 68.27 crore.
The project is expected to be implemented in four years and it is expected to transform the landscape of the horticulture eco-system of Shopian district, according to the official statement.
Apple is a popular fruit that remains in demand throughout the year. Lately, many challenges emerged for the indigenous apple industry to stay afloat and as such needs support to sustain various odds. In the changing and challenging scenario, the government’s intervention becomes crucial rather than the choice.
Apple growers in Kashmir face multiple issues including least demand coupled with the increase in the cost of boxes and other packaging material in contemporary times. Damage to the produce by halting the vehicles for days together as claimed by traders should be unacceptable to the government being a welfare state.
The intervention by the administration is surely needed to help proper incomes of the J&K’s orchardists who have a lot to ponder and invest to keep the produce edible.
With J&K being the biggest producer of apples in this part of the globe, followed by Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, thousands of people are directly and indirectly dependent on it for their livelihoods.
The cluster in the south Kashmir district, known for large produce as well as quality of the apple is likely to be of great help, especially as these cold storage chains are likely to increase shelf value. Once ready, it may prove to be a great value not only during closure of Jammu-Srinagar highway and may also help in achieving delaying quality produce parallel to demand in various places outside Jammu and Kashmir. The ‘apple cluster’ program may also be an immense help towards providing avenues to unemployed youth.