The state of Jammu and Kashmir has the largest potential for production of quality temperate horticulture crops. It has created niche production of apple, pear, cherry and dry fruits. Horticulture occupies very important position in the predominantly agricultural economy of western Himalaya, among all the fruits grown in the Kashmir, Apples are most widely planted and is commercially the most important fruit crop. Apple cultivation is profitable economic activity in the Kashmir valley compare to other agriculture food crops. It is labour intensive, farm based and commercially attractive economic activity. The income earned from this crop is much higher than any other horticulture crop.
Cultivation of apple crop in Jammu and Kashmir shows particular interest for a number of reasons both in terms of area and production, apple is very beneficial fruit crop. Apple is an extremely important source of nutritive diet, this also provides a major source of income and employment to the people in the Valley of J&K. In India, about 75% of apple production comes from State of J&K & out of which 50% of apple production comes from south Kashmir like Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam, among Shopian is second in case of apple production after district Baramulla, and is very famous for its quality apple. There are about seven varieties of Kashmiri apple on the commercial scale and Kashmiri apple is the finest choice among the fruits nationwide.
Not only apple, Kashmir is also a hub for the varities of dry fruits, saffron and other varities. Kashmir produces a variety of dried fruits like almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, apricots, peanuts, dates, raisins, walnuts, pistachio and so forth. Kashmir is a land of walnuts. Walnuts are grown in plenty in areas falling between the elevations of 5000 feet to 8000 feet from sea level. The tree is propagated from seeds and grafting is also done. The tree is protected under government legislation and liberal felling is not allowed.Walnut tree gives first fruit after 6 years of plantation. The tree matures for crop after 12 years. This time lag has made people to shift to apple tree plantation where the crop is fast and returns are stable.
Kupwara has come up as the largest Walnut growing area of Kashmir. It has overtaken Shopian now. Old walnut trees are felled with permission and the wood is used for making Furniture and exquisite walnut wood carved items. This wood carving is an industry in Kashmir and about 9000 to 10000 people survive because of this activity only. Walnut wood carving items are exported to Europe, America and Gulf. The bark of this tree used to be exported to Punjab and other states as DANDASAA (used for Mouth and teeth cleansing mostly by ladies). Picking walnuts from a tree is a tough job. Mainly three varities of walnuts are grown in valley. These varities are locally called WONTH, KAGAZI AND BURZUL. The Wonth is a hard nut to crack and has thick and large outer shell and small kernel. It is mostly sold locally and used for extracting oil. The Kagzi is a better sized walnut and has thin outer shell but thick and good sized inner kernel. one can crack Kagzi in hands only. The inner kernel of the Kagzi variety is white. The Burzul is a medium size variety a little dark and with a little thicker outer shell. The inner kernel is not so white but tasty. This walnut too breaks easily. It is presently acid washed to make it look like Kagzi.
Strangely Walnut grading units are mostly located in Jammu where from the Kernel is exported to Europe, America and other countries. Walnut kernel is mainly used in Bakery and confectionery world over. Local consumption is on a smaller scale. Kashmiri Pandits use walnuts for Shivratri Puja also. Kashmiri walnut fetching an export of 120 crore Rupees in a year. Instead of paddy, dried fruits, Kashmir is the only state in India to produce the saffron. The Kashmiri saffron is grown at an average height of 1600 m to 1800 m above sea level. It is mainly produced in Pulwama, Budgam, Kishtwar, and Srinagar. Kashmiri saffron is considered to be of the highest quality in the whole world. Saffron is an ancient spice, that is not less then a treasure. It is a red gold to the country’s economy. India is the third largest producing saffron in the world after Iran and Spain. It is also having many scientific advantages and cure to many diseases. The government in the state of J&k took various steps to boost the agricultural productivity in the valley. The sopore fruit market was established. The Sopore Fruit Market is the biggest economic hub for Kashmir whose turnover is approximately Rs 2600 Crore. It is the largest wholesale fruit market in Kashmir, and the second-largest in Asia after Azadpur in Delhi.
The government also launched the market intervention scheme (MIS), in association with the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India. It was launched in September 2019. The market intervention scheme aimed at providing optimum price for apple growers in the Kashmir Valley. Under this scheme, the government of J&K planed to procure 12 lakh metric tonnes worth of 8,000 crores under market intervention scheme with the help of the National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED). It makes 60% of the estimated annual apple production. It has been approved by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Union Ministry of Agriculture under the aegis of Ministry of Home Affairs, for the current apple harvesting season. In J&K, the scheme was implemented by the Directorate of Planning and Marketing, supported by the Directorate of Horticulture (Kashmir) and Jammu and Kashmir Horticultural Produce, Marketing and Processing Corporation Ltd. Kashmir produced 20 lakh metric tonnes of apple in 2018, contributing 73% to the total apple production of the country.The period of procurement would be for six months, starting September, at a cost of 8,000 crore.
Apples to be bought from the doorsteps of the orchardists. Direct payment will be made to their account. Transportation will be the job of the procurer only.the government to set up mandis for the scheme at Srinagar’s Parimpora, Baramulla’s Sopore, Shopian and Anantnag’s Botengu.
Significance of Market intervention scheme:
It would help stabilize the price of apples and help maintain a uniform rate in the open market across the country, after India raised tariffs on apple imports from the United States earlier this year.
It will provide the much needed support to the fruit growers in Jammu and Kashmir. Ease and convenience for the farmers as apples will be procured and transported from the doorsteps of the farmers.
It will help in building the necessary forwards and backward linkage in the apple industry in Jammu and Kashmir. The building of cold storages will also receive the necessary attention in the region.
The Scientific equipments provided by the government to the farmers and hybrid quality of seeds also gave a boom to the production in the valley and contributed much to the pocket. The BJP led cente took lot of steps to build up the farmer of the country and mostly measures were taken in the Kashmir valley to strengthen production quality. Even during the pandemic, the government gave a relief package to the farmers. The BJP government is providing lots of schemes to raise up the farmers in Kashmir. It also charms the valley. The government must take remedial measures to support our farmers time to time to make India Atmanirbar Bharat.