Apple Industry Craves For Government Support

Apple Industry Craves For Government Support

9 July 2012
Greater Kashmir
Muddasir Ali

Srinagar: With apple industry, mainstay of Kashmir’s economy, facing tough challenge for survival in the market from other fruit growing states, J&K Government’s neglect towards its revival has left the vital sector in shambles. Not only has the Government shelved the proposal for providing latest infrastructural facilities for export of apple and other crops, the dismal picture of different fruit mandis (markets) across Kashmir has exposed how State Government is ignoring the prized industry. Jammu and Kashmir Horticulture Produce Marketing Corporation (HPMC) was set up in 1978 for providing infrastructure for grading, packing and processing of apple and hulling and drying of walnuts. “While work on these projects was started in early ’90s most of them are however lying incomplete which has defeated the purpose of providing latest facilities to the growers,” said an official. Besides, the Government has even failed to take up restoration of damaged and incomplete projects citing financial constraints. The official said the proposal for restoration- completion of such 36 projects requires investment of around Rs 23 crores. The appointment of a non-technical official as Director Horticulture, Kashmir, and many posts lying vacant in marketing sector of the department in and outside the State has raised serious concern about the future of the fruit industry in the Valley. Experts expressed concern over the Government’s decision to get a non-professional official to head the department. The rules provide that a professional who would have served the department for three years as Joint Director or put in his services as Chief Horticulture Officer can head the department. “The Director is a link between growers and universities, Union Horticulture Ministry for introduction of new varieties, use of insecticides and taking research programs to the growers. His thorough expertise on the subject is must for growth of the sector,” said an expert. He said the decision to appoint an official from administrative line as the Director has come at a time when there is race between different apple producing states like J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to introduce new varieties which would decide the position of a State in the market. Besides, positions of Area Marketing Officers and Assistant Directors both in and outside the State are lying vacant for the past two years in different fruit mandis. The official said various posts of Area Marketing Officers and Assistant Directors are vacant in Pulwama, Lucknow, Patna, Bhopal, Amritsar, Jaipur, Bangalore and Chennai. Besides, there are no officers to man the positions of Assistant Director Planning, Assistant Director Marketing and Assistant Director Transport. The problems in the sector do not end here. The Rs 400 crore Technology Mission for horticulture in J&K is going nowhere, said an official. “There has been little progress in its implementation and much of the funds are lying unspent,” the official said. In a blow to the HPMC, the State Government is learnt to have initiated the process of selling its land, meant for creation of infrastructure, at Zakura on city outskirts. About 60 kanals will be put under the hammer in the wake of Government nod for the same. “The proposal to sell the land was approved at the meeting of Board of Directors of the Corporation held under the chairmanship of Minister for Horticulture Sham Lal Sharma in Jammu recently,” sources said.