Realising the importance of irrigation facility to increase the productivity and quality of apples, World Bank (WB) aided project for horticulture will address the issue of irrigation infrastructure in orchards across the state. The WB has approved Rs 1,000cr project for management of horticultural crops in Himachal.
With the WB team, consultant from New Zealand and various stakeholders in the state have been formulating the project implementation plan. The project will cover various components for stonefruit, protect vegetable production, besides apple, which contribute to the state's economy significantly.
In Himachal, lack of irrigation facility for orchardists, is one of the problems that the growers are facing. In overall agriculture and horticulture scenario, only 30% area is irrigated, while the rest is dependent upon rain water. Apple is mainly produced in Shimla, Kullu, Kinnaur and Mandi district and irrigation remain an issue everywhere.
"We are providing assistance to farmers under various schemes to strengthen the irrigation network in their orchards," horticulture director Gurdev Singh said, adding yearly many farmers were availing the benefit.
Number of farmers availing the benefit may be increasing yearly as per the government's claim, but apple orchards are losing productivity in various areas due to pack of water available for irrigation. "Old nullahs (tributaries) are drying up and due to less landholding, large water storage tanks are not possible in most of areas," Satyender Thakur, an apple grower from Kullu said.
While preparing the project implementation plan of the WB project, irrigation sector was given priority. "This project is for the betterment of horticulture and our approach should be developing infrastructure and support our farmers, especially marginal ones, so as to increase the productivity," horticulture produce marketing corporation (HPMC) managing director JC Sharma said.
Sharma, who is the project director for the project, said irrigation was a major field, besides several others being covered in this project. "On farm and cluster based irrigation will be our priority and in the past few days, the WB team, consultants and other stakeholders have drawn plans for this," he said.
Apple constitutes 90% of the fruit crops of the state. During 2014-15 (up to December 2014), 581metric tonnes of apple was produced; in 2013-14, it was 739 metric tones; 412 metric tonnes in 2012-13; 275 metric tonnes in 2011-12, and in 2010-11, there was a record production of 892 metric tonnes of apple.
Area under apple cultivation has increased to 107,686 hectares from 3,025 hectares in 1960-61. It is produced in Shimla, Sirmaur, Kullu, Lahaul-Spiti, Mandi, Chamba and Kinnaur districts and has the economy of around Rs 3, 500 crore.