Horticulture acts as a force multiplier in the farming sector of the Himachal Pradesh. With precise farming techniques like poly houses and micro-irrigation more farmers are reaping the benefits of crop diversification.
Agriculture is the main occupation of the people of Himachal Pradesh. It provides direct employment to 70 per cent of the State’s population. Rice, wheat and maize constitute the important cereal crops in the State. The BJP government is giving top priority to agricultural production to increase income of the farmers. The emphasis is on production of off season vegetables, fruits and flowers.
Horticulture has proved to be the most remunerative diversification of land use in the hills. The State has an elaborate department of Horticulture with offices spread across HP. During the last few years, the government has brought 20,431.4 hectare under fruits, 262 hectare under flowers, and 584.3 hectare under medicinal and aromatic plants. In total 8,25,922 sq m has been brought under protected cultivation of horticultural crops. The horticulture annually contributes around Rs 2,000 crore towards the State GDP. The thrust is on mushroom cultivation, bee keeping, floriculture, hops cultivation, fruit processing, etc.
On , October 13 we went to a village called Kufri in Shimla district. It is also a well known hill station, 13 kilometers away from Shimla. On climbing the hills we reached a hamlet called Santhal (in Theog Tehsil). There we met a farmer called Om Prakash, who was producing capsicum (or Shimla Mirch). I wanted to know whether it was profitable, and he informed it indeed was. The credit was due, he said, to the poly house which facilitates growing high value agricultural products under protective conditions. He showed us his poly house. A poly house is a protective shade made of polythene. It can be circular, square or elongated in shape. Temperature, humidity and ventilation are controlled by the equipments fixed in the poly house. Crops grown in the poly house are protected from intense heat, bright sunlight, strong winds, hail storms and cold waves. Poly houses are ideal for growing vegetable and flowers in the off-season. Om Prakash constructed his poly house, spanning 800 sq m, under Horticulture Technology Mission of HP government. An amount of Rs 2.5 lakh was provided by the State government as subsidy.
Though protected from the vagaries of weather, his first crop of capsicum was destroyed by disease. Not discouraged, however, he tried capsicum again. He planted 3,000 plants, incurring a cost of Rs 9,000. Besides this he spent about Rs 20,000 for fertilizer and Rs 10,000 for pesticides. Till date he could produce 400 boxes of capsicum. He spent Rs 60 per box as transportation to sell it in the markets. The total expenditure came to around Rs 53,000. He is utterly confident of earning Rs 1,00,000 from it. But how did he get the subsidy of Rs 2.5 lakh, I asked him. He informed, he had applied to the Agriculture Department of HP government for construction of poly house under Pt. Deendayal Kisan Bagwan Samriddhi Yojana. He received the sanction to construct the poly house after fulfilling the necessary conditions.
We met another farmer Aryadeep cultivating cabbage under open conditions in one acre area. The crop is planted in the month of June and completes its lifecycle in October. The cultivation expenses starts with Rs. 25,000 for purchasing seeds. Upon this, he has to spend, Rs. 15,000 towards fertilizer and Rs. 5,000 for pesticides. Then he has to pay for water, labour, packaging, transportation to the market. The total cost of production is around Rs.90,000. A total return from the crop is around Rs 1,60,000 within a period of 5 months.
Then we met Mukund Lal, a farmer cultivating Peas in the village Dhbech (Manjhar block of Theog Tehsil). He grew Peas of Arkal variety during the month of July on 10 bigha (3.33 acres) of land. He spent about Rs 20,000 including procurement of seeds, ploughing of land, manure, fertilizers, plucking and packing and transportation etc. About 40 bags of 50 kg each were produced are sold at an average rate of Rs 30/- per kg. With a period of four months he could get Rs 60,000 as return. He seems to be happy with it. In general farmers of the area grow capsicum, cabbages, beans, cauliflowers, tomatoes and peas.
Himachal is famous for his floriculture. Chrysanthemum, gerbera, roses, marigold, carnation flowers are generally grown in the mountains. Fresh flowers worth crores of rupees are produced and sent to Punjab, Haryana and Delhi markets. There are seven floricultural nurseries and stations under Department of Horticulture in Solon, Shimla and Kangra and Kullu districts. The department has published a number of free and priced publications for guiding the cultivators.
We visited a village called Puach, where we met a floriculturist called Hemraj. He appeared to be around 50, and had a poly house measuring 288 sq m. He had planted 7,800 carnation flower plants, each of which cost him Rs 10/-. This crop has a life cycle of three years. Once planted it starts blossoming after three months. The plucking is done after every two days in summer and after every four days during the winter. The plucked sticks are tied in a bunch of 20 each. Then roughly 50 bunches are packed in a box. This flower mainly finds its market in Delhi. The transportation cost is Rs 200/- per box from Theog to Delhi. It is one of the best selling flowers. The farmer is happy earning a minimum of Rs 1.5 lakh per year.
Thus, horticulture, in its various manifestations, has proved to be the most remunerative venture in the hills. It has the potential of bringing economic prosperity to this mountain State of India. In order to strengthen the economy of the farmers thousands of poly houses have been constructed by the Himachal Pradesh government under Pt. Deendayal Kisan Bagwan Samridhi Yojana. Subsidy to the tune of 80 per cent is being provided to construct poly houses and irrigation process. TheBJP State government is trying to bring a sea change in the economic condition of the farmers by way of crop diversification and ensuring better infrastructural facilities.