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CITH’s low quality, high-price fruit plants worry Kashmir farmers

By: Irfan Ahmed

Srinagar, Feb 19: Low quality of plant materials and their high costs at the Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture (CITH) this season have left Kashmir’s fruit growers worried, who, otherwise, rely on the institute’s good-quality hybrid plant varieties for their orchards.

CITH is a research centre-cum-plant material production site situated at Rangreth, Srinagar, and stretches to the fag end of Kralpora, Budgam, near Doodh Ganga Water Filtration plant. The institute, spread over a massive area of 1976 kanals of leased land, is run by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

Annually, the institute produces more than 40,000 plants of different temperate fruit crops, mainly apple, pear, peach, plum, apricot, almond, walnut, cherry, kiwifruit and olive, according to ICAR website.

While initially the centre was known for the high quality of its plant materials, lately, farmers are reporting low quality planting material and exorbitant costs.

“This year it has been a deep disappointment. The plants on sale at the centre are physically weak; and are barely two to four feet in height. These tiny and low-strength plants are often unable to withstand the stray animal and other weather vagaries”, said Muhammad Subhan, a progressive farmer from Sopore.

Fruit growers  also note that the CITH’s official website is no more in operation, as a result of which potential buyers are unable to get information on the plant materials and their costs in a transparent and timely manner.

Farooq Ahmed, a regular buyer of plants and seeds at CITH from Shopian, told Ziraat Times that over the years the institute seems not to pay due attention to the quality standards of the plants produced there.

“Looking at the quality of the plants this year, it is clear they are not well nourished. Lack of proper nourishment seems due to inadequate application of nutrients”, Mr Farooq said, adding the institute must provide proper nourishment and number of months for proper growth of the plants.

This year the cost of fruit plants at CITH is Rs 150 per plant, while a walnut plant costs Rs 300. According to estimates, the centre earns between Rs 80 lakhs to Rs 90 lakhs from the sale of plants every season.

The centre also produces about 15,000 scion-wood sticks. It also produces 5-6 quintals of vegetable seeds and supplied and sold to consumers like kitchen gardeners, vegetable growers, research organizations etc.

Farmers and their unions in Kashmir have appealed the ICAR to pay due attention to quality standards at the institution to maintain its credibility and reputation.

An email to CITH for their comment on these farmer allegations has not been responded to so far.

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