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Kashmir farmers’ 7-point agenda needs attention


As much as its high economic potential, Kashmir region’s agriculture sector, characterised by distinct agro climatic and supply chain conditions, also faces certain structural challenges that require careful analysis and attention at the public policy levels. In anticipation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Srinagar, the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers cum Dealers Union (KVFGDU), a  representative body of several farming associations, addressed a letter to the Prime Minister, and highlighted seven issues, which, according to the associations, are critical for realising the full  potential of the state’s agriculture sector.

Objectively speaking, these demands, far from mere technicalities, represent a lifeline for the region’s fruit and farming industry, and deserve the policy makers’ urgent consideration.

Firstly, to the farmers, the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) and Crop Insurance Scheme are  crucial safeguards against unpredictable weather patterns and volatile market prices in J&K. Crop insurance scheme has not worked for Kashmir’s farmers the way it should. There are, of course, challeges, but then there are successful models also available from elsewhere which could be replicated here. Kashmiri fruit growers, particularly those producing “Grade C” apples and fallen/Ghiran fruits, face significant financial strain. The MIS for that kind of fruit could ensure a minimum support price for these categories, preventing exploitation by middlemen and guaranteeing some return on investment. Similarly, a comprehensive Crop Insurance Scheme would offer protection against natural disasters like hailstorms and floods, which can devastate entire harvests.

Secondly, the high 18% GST on essential inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, and packaging materials have come to significantly inflate production costs.of farmers Reducing this tax burden would make fruit production more viable and improve profit margins for farmers. Recognizing Tree Spray Oil as an agricultural product would further streamline the process and ensure its accessibility.

The establishment of a dedicated Horticulture Estate is a visionary proposal. Imagine a space equipped with state-of-the-art CA/Cold Stores, Canning Factories, and Juice plants, all in one place. This would revolutionize post-harvest management, minimizing spoilage and adding value to fruits. It would also create new employment opportunities and empower local businesses.

Subsidies on essential inputs like fertilizers and packaging materials would provide much-needed relief to growers and dealers. This, coupled with access to high-density plant material, would encourage the rejuvenation of aging orchards and enhance overall fruit production.

The KVFGDU’s demands are not mere requests; they are a roadmap for revitalizing Kashmir’s fruit industry. By addressing these concerns, the Prime Minister has the power to empower Kashmiri farmers, strengthen the regional economy, and ensure the continued flourishing of this iconic fruit basket of India. Kashmir’s orchards are not just a source of livelihood; they are a symbol of the region’s rich heritage. By heeding the call of the KVFGDU, the Prime Minister can ensure their legacy thrives for generations to come.

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