In a significant step towards promotion of horticulture produce of Jammu & Kashmir and make its presence in the global market, the J&K Government on Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED) that would set up three cold storage clusters and ensure geographical indication (GI) tags for the fruits.

An official spokesman said that the MoU will be a game changer for the horticulture sector in Jammu and Kashmir. High density plantation of apple, walnut, cherry, pear, flowers etc has potential to increase the income of farmers by 3 to 4 times.

NAFED would cover 5500 hectares at a cost of Rs.1700 crore in the next five years with major focus on fruits. NAFED will also set up 20 Farmer-Producer organizations, one in each district, in the next three months.

The NAFED will set up three cold storage clusters, one each in North Kashmir, South Kashmir and Kathua of Jammu at a cost of Rs.500 crore, besides ensuring Geographical Indications tags (GI Tags) for all premium and niche horticulture produce, branding and marketing of fruit crops like apple, walnut, cherry, olive, litchi etc.

In presence of Manoj Sinha, Lieutenant Governor UT of J&K, the MoU was signed between Navin Kumar Choudhary, Principal Secretary, Agriculture and Horticulture Department, J&K and Sanjeev Kumar Chadha, Managing Director, NAFED.

Speaking on the occasion, the Lt Governor observed that the J&K Government is tirelessly working on four issues that are being addressed on priority-Increasing productivity through intervention of technology; ensuring best price and market support; mitigation of risks, and diversification through allied activities.

The Lt Governor said that horticulture produce of Jammu division will be given a major push for marketing and NAFED will also look into the possibility of high density plantation of apple in Kishtwar and Bhaderwah. “The UT government will work with NAFED to promote horticulture produce and to set up a quality planting material lab. GI tagging of all premium horticulture produce and marketing is top priority of the administration.

As per the MoU, NAFED will create post-harvest infrastructure for agriculture and horticulture crops in the form of cold atmosphere stores, grading and processing facilities in future at the locations decided by the UT administration. Besides, implementation of high density plantation, NAFED will develop hi-tech nurseries for raising root stock and also import it to facilitate the farmers.

This initiative also involves setting up virus indexing labs as per latest protocol for testing of quality planting material. The NAFED will work on branding and marketing of fruit crops and establishment of market linkages for exotic and non-seasonal vegetables and flowers in different metro cities of the country.

Chadha said the NAFED will work in a time bound manner on each point to increase productivity and also ensure availability of hybrid vegetable seeds and high value exotic vegetable seeds while giving special focus to popularize aromatic plants of Jammu division.