Chief minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday emphasised on the need to nurture Jammu and Kashmir's horticulture sector and the growers associated with it to improve the state's economy.
The CM said horticulture, handicrafts, and tourism, could catapult the state's economy and uplift the standard of living of the people associated with these sectors.
Addressing a function after laying the foundation of a controlled atmosphere storage facility here, Abdullah said the storage facility would help get better prices for Kashmir's horticulture produce.
The chief minister said the glut created in terminal markets by the bulk supply of fruit from the Valley during harvest season reduced the prices, causing economic losses to fruit-growers.
He said setting up of controlled atmosphere storages in the Valley and regulating the market by dispatching fruit as per the demand in terminal markets would benefit growers: "This will check the sudden fall in prices of fruit in the markets due to the glut."
Abdullah also laid stress on increasing per-hectare production. He said that at present, the per-hectare production of apple in the Valley was 9.5 tonnes, as against to 70 tonnes per hectare in Austria.
He said that growers and the horticulture department would have to work together to work out a strategy for enhancing productivity. "If per-hectare production of fruit is raised up to 25 tonnes per hectare in the state, we will be able to produce 35-lakh tonnes of apple annually," he said. "This will not only generate economic activities and jobs but also help strengthen economy."
The CM said the state lacked in scientific marketing of fruit. "Packaging, grading, and quality, are a must for selling the produce in terminal markets on reasonable prices."
He said that Kashmir apple could be exported anywhere in the world if its quality, packaging, and presentation, was up to the mark, and on a par with international standards. "We need to focus on this aspect."
On steps taken by the state government, he said the agriculture sector had almost been made tax-free, and that facilities and concessions were being provided to growers.