o protect the British-era old apple industry in Himachal Pradesh, the state government has started a project under which old and senile apple plants are replaced with exotic high-yield varieties. About six lakh new saplings have been replanted under the apple rejuvenation scheme covering 5,917 beneficiaries during the past four years, an official with the state Horticulture Department said on Sunday. He said the department has uprooted more than three lakh old and senile apple plants.
Besides, a World Bank-funded Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Development Project is being implemented in the state with an outlay of Rs 1,134 crore, mainly to protect apple cultivation. This hill state is one of India’s major apple-producing regions, with more than 90 per cent of the produce going to the domestic market. Apples alone constitute 84 per cent of the state’s fruit economy of Rs 3,500 crore ($520 million). To protect the apple and other fruit crops from natural vagaries like hailstorms, the state government is providing subsidy on anti-hail nets. According to the Horticulture Department records, 473.73 hectare have been covered under the state’s anti-hail net scheme, benefiting 1,514 orchardists in the past four years. The official said the state would cover more farmers in the next fiscal under the anti-hail net scheme, under which each grower is being provided 80 per cent subsidy on installing nets. Prominent mid-hills apple belts in Kotkhai, Kiari, Chirgaon, and Rohru in Shimla district, which alone account for 80 per cent of the state’s total apple production, Karsog, Churag and Seri in Mandi district and Ani and Dalash in Kullu district are prone to hailstorms. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh presenting the state Budget for 2017-18 this month proposed to install more weather recording systems across the state during the year so that real time data is collected and weather-based crop insurance benefits flow to the farmers.
In the next fiscal, the government is going to increase plantation of kiwi in Chamba, Hamirpur, Una, Mandi, Bilaspur, Solan, Sirmaur and Kangra districts as temperatures up to 35 degree Celsius are congenial for the fruit’s cultivation. Horticulture experts say another interesting aspect relating to kiwi fruit is that monkeys do not eat it and it fetches good market price.
According to the state’s Economic Survey 2016-17, the overall production of fruit and food grain in Himachal Pradesh may decline this fiscal. The production of fruit was 5.10 lakh tonnes in 2016-17 (till December), compared with 9.29 lakh tonnes in 2015-16. In this fiscal, 4.56 lakh tonnes of apple were produced till December against 7.77 lakh tonnes in the previous financial year.