As part of a joint Indo-Israel plan to bring the latest technology at the doorsteps of farmers, a Rs 10.40 crore centre of excellence for citrus fruits has come up at Khanaura village of the district.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal would inaugurate the high-tech facility on November 20. The centre has been set up with funds from the National Horticulture Mission. To give impetus to the diversification and increase fruit cultivation, mainly citrus, farmers would be provided saplings of advanced varieties of fruit and technical training at the centre.
"Hoshiarpur is a natural growing area of citrus. The centre of excellence has been established here for standardization and demonstration of citrus production technologies", said state horticulture director Gurkanwal Singh.
"Demand for fruits is growing fast but affordable prices to the consumers and high profit to growers is possible only by plugging the technological gaps in the existing fruit growing practices. Keeping the interest of both the consumer and the supplier, the government collaborated with Israel to focus on this high value segment of horticulture", he added. He hoped that the initiative would contribute to productivity and boost diversification.
Presently the area under fruit cultivation in Hoshiarpur is around 9100 hectares of which citrus fruits grow in 6600 hectares. To give an impetus to citrus farming, a multipurpose processing plant was set up here a few years ago, though the facility is underutilized. Experts believe that if frost resistant, virus free plants are grown, the production of citrus can multiply manifold.
Project in charge at Khanaura, horticulture development officer Balwinder Singh revealed that about two dozen varieties from Israel and USA were being developed in 18 acres of field. After testing their viability, the saplings would be provided to the growers, he added.
"The saplings should be ready in three years time. Apart from the plants, farmers will get subsidies for specific fruit farming services and technical training", he informed. He revealed that Israel's national expert on Citrus, Dov Raber would occasionally visit the centre to offer consultation to technocrats and farmers. The pack house at the centre would be equipped with waxing and grading facilities to citrus growers as part of post harvest management plan, he added.