Himachal heading for bumper off-season harvest of vegetables

Himachal Pradesh, whose economy largely depends on agriculture and horticulture, hopes to sharply increase the land area to cultivate off-season vegetables. 

The hill state is also eyeing investment in cold chains. An additional 4,000 hectares are to be brought under off-season vegetables in the next fiscal. Private investment is also being encouraged to set up storage facilities.

The agriculture department figures show that Himachal Pradesh’s annual output of off-season vegetables has reached 1.4 million tonne with a turnover of about Rs 2,500 crore.

“There is still a vast scope for expansion of off-season vegetables as only about 10 percent of the cropped area has been brought under vegetable cultivation,” Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said in his budget speech on Friday.

“I propose to cover an additional 4,000 hectare area under off-season vegetables during 2014-15,” he said, allocating Rs 55 crore for that. Singh also proposed to start a Rs 100-crore Y S Parmar Kisan Swarozgar Yojana to popularise farming inside modern greenhouses called polyhouses and to augment farmer incomes.

Named after the state’s first chief minister, the scheme has a target of constructing 4,700 polyhouses covering 830,000 square metres in the next financial year. Agriculture officials said the farmers would be provided 85 percent subsidy under the Horticulture Technology Mission to set up a polyhouse.

The project will be phased over three years and will not only increase the production of vegetables but create employment opportunities for about 20,000 people. Most farmers in the state have small landholdings on hill slopes.

To promote coffee cultivation, coffee demonstration trials would be carried out in Kangra, Mandi, Una and Bilaspur districts by the Coffee Board of India. And to promote agriculture and horticulture, all vegetables and fruit crops will be exempt from market fee from next fiscal.Singh also announced an apple rejuvenation project covering 1,500 hectare.

“An additional area of 1,000 hectare is proposed to be covered under micro-irrigation during 2014-15,” said Singh, who also heads the finance ministry. He said the process to import improved varieties and rootstocks of apple, pear, cherry, walnut and strawberry would continue.

In order to attract private investment in horticulture, all private investors who intend to invest in the controlled atmosphere stores in the rural areas would get land at a token lease money of Re 1.

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