Himachal Horticulture Minister Virdya Stokes on Sunday lashed out at BJP leaders for terming apple root stock that were distributed to farmers as virus-infected and warned former horticulture minister Narender Bragta of consequences if he continued to do so.

Stokes said the government was implementing the World Bank funded project through Himachal Pradesh Horticulture the Development Society (HPHDS) for the long-term development of the horticulture sector through an integrated value chain approach.

“The project had been designed to address key constraints which this sector was facing such as low productivity, lack of assured irrigation facilities, inappropriate agricultural research system and extension services, high post harvest losses, non-existence of micro, small and medium agro enterprises (MSME), limited access to financial capital, fierce competition from abroad due to free international trade and more frequent weather related shocks etc,” she said.

Commenting on the quality of plant materials being distributed to the farmers under the project upon which the BJP is planning to launch a protest, Stokes said these allegations were unfounded and baseless. “The plant material procured under World Bank funded project was in accordance with approved guidelines and by following due transparent and competitive bidding process with the explicit approval of the World Bank,” she said.

She said the preference of growers, views of university scientists was the key consideration for the finalisation of kind of varieties and rootstocks to be imported. “For this series of meetings and workshops were conducted and list of varieties and rootstocks was finalised and got approved from the funding agencies i.e. the World Bank. For the import of planting material transparent and fair World Bank procedure and guidelines were followed and quantum of import was as per Project Implementation Plan approved by the government and the World Bank,” she added.

Import was made as per the Plant Quarantine (Regulation of import into INDIA) order 2003 and import permit was issued by the Ministry of Agriculture for the definite number of plants o be imported, she added.