Himachal all set to lead country in off-season vegetable production

Report by Vijyender Sharma, Shimla: The state government has initiated a mega plan to diversify agriculture activities in the State by launching various ambitious schemes. The main thrust of the government is on promoting off-season vegetable production in a big way for which emphasis has been laid on providing adequate irrigation facilities to the farming community.
The farmers are switching over to cash crops in place of traditional crops as a result of promotional programmes and schemes launched by the state government. The vegetable production is generating revenue of Rs. 3500-4000 crore annually and has emerged as an alternate economic activity in horticulture belt. The returns of off-season vegetable cultivation are very high as compared to traditional food crops. The off-season vegetables give net return of Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 2 lakh per hectare whereas the traditional crops fetch only Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 10,000 per hectare in the state. The off-season vegetable production in the state in 2016-17 reached to 16,53,506 metric tonne in 76,947 hectares area
Due to congenial ago-climatic conditions, the state has already earned name in the production of off-season vegetables like tomato, capsicum, green peas, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, potato and cucumber in the country in the season when these are not available in plains. Mid June to September are the months when there is no supply of vegetables from plain areas in the markets from Delhi, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Karnal, Ambala and Chandigarh. The vegetables supplied from the state fetch good prices during off-season.
For systematic diversification of crops, the Agriculture department has chalked out a plan for introduction of high yielding hybrids of vegetables, grafted vegetable seedlings, exotic vegetables, popularisation of micro irrigation system, protected cultivation and to encourage seed production through Seed Village Programme.
In order to further boost vegetable production and to achieve faster and more inclusive growth in agriculture sector, especially vegetable production, the state government has also launched another project on production of vegetables under protected cultivation with an outlay of Rs. 111.19 crore. So far, 3286 poly-houses covering an area of 56 hectares has been set up in the state against the target of 83.54 hectare. The government is giving 85 percent assistance to the farmers under this project.
The state government has started various irrigation programmes to promote vegetable production in the state. It has been decided to implement Rs. 224 crore ‘Saur Sinchayee Yojna’ in the State under which 90 percent financial assistance will be provided to individual small and marginal farmers and 80 percent subsidy to individual medium and big farmers. Similarly, 100 percent financial assistance will be provided to a group of farmers of small and marginal category/Kisan Vikas Sanghs/Krishak Vikas Sangh/registered body of farmers.
Another Rs. 174.50 crore flow irrigation scheme is being implemented through Agriculture department under which 7152.30 hectare area will be brought under assured irrigation benefiting over 9580 farmers of the State.
The government has also decided to start Rs. 20 crore ‘Rajya Krishi Yantrikaran Programme’ in the State for farm mechanization. Under this scheme 50 percent subsidy will be provided to the eligible beneficiaries belonging to small and marginal farmers, women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes on purchasing of small tractors, power tillers, weeders and other need based/ approved machineries.
The state has prepared a project worth Rs. 4751 crore for water conservation and rain water harvesting which has been forwarded to the centre government for funding. Rs. 708.87 crore has been sanctioned to the state in the first phase under which at least five developmental blocks of three districts will be covered.
Keeping in view the success of JICA-I project which was implemented in five districts for diversification of crops, the government of India has given approval in principle for second phase of this project to be implemented in the entire state.
These efforts and initiatives of the state government will surely give a new dimension to off-season vegetable production besides achieving the target of doubling the income of the farmers by 202 in the state.