Himachal’s Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Monday launched ’Concor’s CSR and Sustainability Project’ at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi today for sustainable development of Apple crop in Shimla, Kullu and Kinnaur districts of state.
Virbhadra Singh said that this project on sustainable development of Apple crop in Shimla, Kullu and Kinnaur districts of Himachal Pradesh will undertake strategies for improving the productivity and quality of apple orchards by water harvesting, mechanization and agriculture education, with major emphasis on training and capacity building of farmers and would be implemented through TERI under the stewardship of Nobel laureate Dr RK Pachauri.
“The project will benefit about 1500 apple growing households directly while around 1000 households will be benefited indirectly,” Singh said, adding that the Apple was the mainstay of around 1.70 lakh farm families in Himachal Pradesh.
“Out of 12 districts, apple is commercially being cultivated in 6 districts of the states and Himachal has achieved distinction in cultivation of apple and grows about 38% of the nation’s apple crop,” Singh said.
The Chief Minister said that during the last fifty five years, the State had witnessed a transformation in horticultural development and there has been a phenomenal increase in the area and production of apple in Himachal Pradesh due to which the State has deservingly earned a place of pride as ‘The Apple State of India’.
He said that the area under apple cultivation in Himachal Pradesh has increased from 3025 hectare in 1960-61 to 1.04 lakh hectare in 2011-12 which constitutes more than 48 percent of the total area under fruit production in the state.
“The apple dominates the fruit production in the state and contributes about 81 percent of the total fruit production of the State. The production of apple has increased from 12,000 MT in 1960-61 to a record production of 8.92 Lac MT in 2010-11. The apple industry of the state is making a significant contribution of Rs. 3600 Crore annually to the state economy and has transformed the economic status of farmers,” he said.
He said that in order to improve the production, productivity and quality, production of quality plant material was being encouraged through promoting hi-tech nurseries and tissue culture units. Besides this, improved varieties and root stocks of apple are being imported from advanced countries which are being multiplied at the departmental orchards for further distribution to horticulturalists.
Singh said that although the area and production of Apple had registered manifold increase, yet the production fluctuates year to year and productivity remains low as compared to the advanced countries.
“The productivity of apple ranges from 6 to 11.5 MT per hectare in Himachal Pradesh in comparison to 35 to 40 MT in advanced countries. Low apple productivity is due to innate constraints such as rough weather, undulating topography, small and scattered land holdings and extrinsic factors like rain fed farming, weather sensitive varieties, inadequate pollinizer ratio, low mechanization and conventional orchard management technologies. The productivity of existing apple plantations has not reached the desired level despite efforts to streamline the input supply, infrastructure, efficiency in the extension service and subsidy support on production /protection inputs,” he added.
He added that the state is already facing brunt of imported Apple from China, New Zealand and other countries. To produce quality apple that meets the international standards is another challenge for survival of the apple industry of the state.