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Horticultural movement

Shiv Rawal | Chandigarh |

The nationwide farmers’ protests seeking implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report have kept the BJP government at the Centre led by Narendra Modi on its toes.  BJP governments at the Centre and states in a bid to assuage the farmers  held conferences involving progressive farmers, scientists, economists, policy makers, representatives of farmers’ unions and stakeholders in the government including politicians and officials to mull over how to double farmers’ incomes by 2022.

Giving up traditional crops to focus on crop diversification, according to the market’s need, is among the prominent suggestions made by the government to farmers. The agitating agriculturists, generally marginal farmers, are in no mood to pay attention to such advice as it is a long process to achieve success.

However, there is a category of cultivators that does not believe in waiting for the government to fulfill its promise of doubling their income. Haryana has several such progressive farmers who by shifting to horticulture from traditional crops are making more money.

One such agriculturist is Kamaljit Singh of Ambala district’s Kot Kachhua village whose family adopted horticulture in 1995, sowing vegetables on 30 acres of land. At present he is cultivating 40 acres through plastic cover low tunnels and micro irrigation earning up to Rs 1-1.5 crore annually from vegetable crops.Kamaljit Singh believes that hard work and horticultural techniques helped him achieve this success. Among the vegetable crops he grows are potatoes, green chilli, muskmelon, cucumbers, cauliflowers and onions. According to Haryana’s Horticulture Department, inspired by Kamaljit, nearly 450 farmers in his block have switched to horticulture by sowing vegetables on around 1200 acres.

Another such famer is Vikram Singh of Saipura of the same district who started by cultivating chillies merely on six Kanals (approx 0.75 acre) earning Rs 50,000 to 75,000. At present, Vikram is cultivating various vegetables on 12 acres of land by adopting mulching, stretching and low-tunnel methods earning Rs 15-20 lakh annually.According to him, the output of chillies in one acre goes up to 200 quintals while in the case of coriander, it is 60 quintals per acre. These crops are sent to the markets of the National Capital Region, he said. His success story has inspired nearly 30 more farmers in his locality to adopt horticulture crops.Surender Singh of Durana village, who began with horticultural crops on only one acre of land in 1974,  is now cultivating vegetable crops in 24 acres, making Rs 30-35 lakh per year.

He says that during the old days, when he began horticulture, potato and gourd used to be the prominent vegetable crops. However, these days there is a lot of variety to help the farmers  earn more money. Instead of continuing with traditional crops, farmers should switch to the vegetables and other horticulture products, promoting micro irrigation, he said.

Likewise, Jagmohan Singh of Kongpura village, after his retirement from the Irrigation Department last year, started horticulture on two acres of land and within a year has expanded to five acres.

Jagmohan is earning Rs 8-10 lakh per annum from his five acres under horticulture and has planned to bring more of his land under the ambit of horticultural cultivation in coming years as he owns more than 30 acres of land. Jagmohan mainly grows sweet corn, marigold and papaya.

He said his son, who has returned after completing his education abroad, has also shown interest in horticulture as it is a beneficial business.

Haryana Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Om Parkash Dhankar believe that by adopting crop diversification, farmers can earn more profits and increase soil fertility. He said that Haryana’s proximity to the National Capital Region (NCR), gives the farmers of the state a potential market to sell their fresh produce daily.

Describing Haryana as a bowl of foodgrains, he said the state government also wished to make the state a bowl of fruits, flowers, vegetable and fisheries.  Dhankar said the Haryana government has aimed at doubling farmers’ income and to help them meet the demand for fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers, milk, milk products and poultry products in the NCR through peri-urban agriculture.

For this, the state government is setting up an international vegetable and fruit market on over 500 acres at Gannaur in Sonepat district while a flower market is coming up at Gurgaon to boost horticulture farming in the state, he added.

Dhankar said as there were new challenges in the agriculture sector, the government had initiated the process to prepare farmers to adopt new concepts like peri-urban agriculture, climate-smart agriculture and give impetus to adoption of organic farming and micro-irrigation, besides marketing and branding of agricultural productsThere are certain categories of farmers, including sugarcane growers and horticultural farmers who have gross per acre annual income up Rs 1 lakh but the government wants all kinds of farmers in agri and allied sectors to have a per acre annual gross income of more than Rs 1 lakh, he added.