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Kargil to establish pasteurised milk plants

CEC Kargil tells Ziraat Times that the move is intended to tap and formalise the region's big milk production potential

Kargil, Jan 24: Kargil has decided to establish pasteurised milk plants as a means to create an organised milk supply chain in the region. 

The move has come at the initiative of the Chairman and Chief Executive Councilor, Kargil, Kacho Ahmad Ali Khan who has called for establishment of dairy plants with a complete set of machinery required for milk pasteurization in the district to meet the demand of pasteurized milk.

"There is huge demand from civilian and armed forces in the region for pasteurised milk. Give the region's logistical challenges in supply chain, we have decided to form milk cooperatives and pasteurisation milk plants to meet the huge demand", Mr Kacho told Ziraat Times from Kargil.

Earlier this week the CEC chaired a meeting of the officers of Cooperative and Animal Husbandry Department which was convened to review the status of projects undertaken by the departments for the encouragement of local milk and other cooperative societies in Kargil.

Chief Animal Husbandry Officer, Kargil, Dr Fida Hussain while speaking to Ziraat Times said the region had a good potential to produce milk and that the formation of cooperatives will help in pooling the milk and formalising the supply chain.

"Currently, Kargil gets packaged milk from outside the region. Cost of fodder is very high. We are trying to focus on developing technologies to generate affordable and sustainable fodder. Formalising this sector will create more formal job opportunities for the people", Dr Fida said.

Currently, there are six registered milk processing societies in the district which supply an average quantity of five lakh litres of milk to Army as well civilians per annum. The officers further informed the CEC that under the Intensive Cooperative Development Project (ICDP) sponsored by the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) a number of projects for the establishment of dairy farms, poultry farms, Cooperative Super Bazaars, District Consumer Cooperative Stores at block levels, Primary Agriculture Credit Societies, Milk Cooperative Societies in the district are under pipeline and work on their establishment is expected to be kick-started in the present year.

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"If we do better, J&K's GDP could be up by Rs 30,000 crores"

He is methodical, focused and inspiring. Meet Nasir Rather, a young man who returned to Kashmir after his education and initial career in Canada to start Meva - a 5-hectare apple farm near Awantipora in South Kashmir. His venture is one of those newly-initiated, professionally-managed farms that is showing the way to aspiring agri-entreprenuers on what model high-density apple orchards are all about. Ziraat Times spoke to Mr. Nasir about his background, motivation and future plans.

ZT: At the outset, please tell us about  your​ ​educational and work​ ​background

Nasir: I finished grade 12 from Biscoe and moved to Canada when I was 19. In Canada, I took Computer Sciences and Marketing from the University of Victoria. During college I worked many jobs, from making sushi to cleaning boats to programming software. I never missed an opportunity to learn and earn. 

After graduation, I started my career in the tech industry in Vancouver, Canada and made quick progress. By the time I left my last job, in 2012, I had lead teams and successfully managed multi-million dollar projects. 

In 2013, I started developing Meva. Meva is a 5 hectare farm that includes an apple nursery and model orchards completely focussed on high density apple production. 

ZT: This sounds very exciting. Tell us something about your farm and its location.

Nasir: We are located near a village called Midura, 6 km from Awantipora. There, we took a barren land, pretty much discarded by its previous owners, and converted it into a farm that is highly productive, sustainable and aesthetically pleasing. 

ZT: What was your motivation​ in leaving your career in Canada and​ take​ up apple ​farming in a volatile situation like Kashmir? 

Nasir: I am a social entrepreneur. I want to build a business that will help solve some real world problems. And, in Kashmir we have many social and economic challenges. 

We have become a consumer state and even our key crop, apple, is on the verge of being destroyed by imported apples. If the central government were to reduce the existing import duty on apple, apple will vanish from Kashmir like almond did. I want Kashmir to become #1 in apple! 

Apple farming in Kashmir is quite outdated, and there is an opportunity improve it. Using new techniques and technologies we can easily produce 5 times more apples. If we are successful in adopting these new ways, we can increase our state’s GDP by 30,000 crores annually, creating many jobs and be able to compete with imported apples. 

ZT: So what​ ​new​ ​technologies,​ ​techniques​ ​you​ ​are​ ​using​ ​for​ ​enhanced​ ​productivity​ ​and efficiency? 

Nasir: We are using high density planting systems to produce 5 times more apples. To be specific, we are using dwarfing rootstocks (M9) to create apple trees that can be planted at closer distances (~3 feet) and start producing apples in just 2 years. 

We have set up an irrigation system that is powered by solar power and a 5 lac litre pond, saving us a lot of money while being reliable and environmentally friendly. 

And, we also use equipment and techniques that have helped use 4 times less pesticides and chemicals. 

ZT: To start such a venture of this kind under current circumstances is not easy. All this cannot have come to fruition without challenges. 

Nasir: In order to realize the full potential of apple in Kashmir, we need to convert over 1.5 lakh hectares of old orchards to high density. 

This is a huge challenge but it brings immense opportunities. We will need to produce lacs of high quality plants locally to meet the upcoming demand. We need more people to join Meva in this endeavour and build their own nurseries and farms. 

We are happy to provide any guidance and material assistance to the deserving people who want to get started. 

ZT: So what could be​ ​done​ ​to​ ​overcome​ ​those​ ​challenges? 

Nasir: The government can help by providing technical support, subsidies and soft loans to attract young and educated people to set up their own nurseries. 

ZT: What​ ​is​ ​your​ ​message​ ​for​ ​youngsters​ ​and​ ​aspiring​ ​farming​ ​entrepreneurs?

Nasir: World population is going to hit 8 billion, like it or not! And most of these people will be living in Asia and they need to be fed. There are limitless opportunities for people willing to work hard and bring new technologies and concepts to farming. 

Make sure to take full advantage of institutions like CITH, SKUAST and the department of horticulture. They have helped me a lot. And, feel free to contact me and I would love to help get you started!

ZT: Thank you very much

Nasir: Thank you