Local youths from the apple growing belts of Shimla, Mandi, Kinnaur and Kullu districts are all set to revolutionise the apple market in the state and have formed the Progressive Growers Association (PGA) - an initiative for the young generation to work together and promote self dependency. The apple economy that contributes 3% to the state is a major cash crop of the state.
Now with the fourth generation taking over the reins of the apple orchards in Himachal Pradesh, the local youths are adopting new technologies and modern scientific practices to increase apple production in the state. Several young farmers have also imported “Rootstock”, an apple plant material from foreign countries, to boost apple productivity.Commercial apple Farming in Himachal is credited to Satyanand Stokes (Samuel Evans Stokes), who boought five apple saplings of the Red Delicious type from the Stark Brothers, the famous nursery growers from Louisiana.
PGA, which held its second meeting in Shimla on Wednesday, invited veteran apple growers Lakshman Thakur from Jubbal and Harichand Roach from Kotgarh to talk about the the need of quality plant material and less dependency on the government. “The government has orchards on hundreds of bighas of land running in losses, so we cannot rely on the government,” Roach said.
PGA vice-president Ashutosh Chauhan said the association would unite growers across the state to lessen the cost of farm implements and increase productivity. The association also held a training camp few days back at the Horticulture research centre, Mashobra, where around two dozen farmers were trained by experts, said Kunal Chauhan, a progressive farmer.
Young farmers Lokinder Singh and Karan Singh Dutta, who transformed their old apple orchards, said the farmers alone could not put much efforts due to several reasons. “The association would be useful, especially for marginal farmers who alone cannot afford experiments in their orchards,” he said.
This year the state produced over 3.30 crore apple boxes, slightly higher than last year. The apple production in the state was 3.13 crore boxes in 2014 and 3.69 crore boxes in 2013, while the 4.46 crore boxes produced in 2010 were the highest.