Horticulture sector is proving helpful in strengthening the economy of the people of Himachal Pradesh by generating various sources of income. Presently 2.34 lakh hectare area is under horticulture in the state. In the last four years, 31.40 lakh metric tonnes of fruits have been produced in the state. The average annual income of the horticulture sector during this period was Rs. 4575 crore and on an average 9 lakh people are getting direct or indirect employment in this sector. The contribution of the state to the global horticulture market has increased manifold in the recent years.
In view of the immense potential of horticulture in low-lying areas with hot climate, the Sub-tropical Horticulture, Irrigation and Value Addition Project (HP SHIVA) is an innovative initiative of the State Government for overall development of the horticulture sector and to make people self-reliant. Under the project, horticulture development would be done on the basis of seed to market concept. The goal of the project is to connect maximum number of unemployed youth and women with horticulture. Assistance and facilities ranging from suitable saplings to mass marketing would be provided to the orchardist for developing new orchards. Implemented in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank for a total cost of Rs. 975 crore, the government's contribution in this project is Rs. 195 crore. So far, the Himachal government has provided Rs. 48.80 crore for the implementation of the project, out of which Rs. 37.31 crore has been spent.
Under this project, Asian Development Bank mission finalized Project Readiness Financing for Rs. 75 crore for pilot testing of four fruits namely guava, litchi, pomegranate and citrus fruits in 17 clusters of 12 development blocks of four districts covering total of 200 hectares of area.
For the main project, 10000 hectares of land has been identified in 28 development blocks of seven districts of Sirmaur, Solan, Una, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Kangra and Mandi, which will benefit more than 25,000 farmer families. This is an important step towards realizing the vision of self-reliant Himachal.
Under HP SHIVA, high density farming would be promoted to bring horticulture revolution and the orchards would be protected and maintained using scientific methodology. Apart from this, provision has been made for composite solar fencing to protect fruits and crops from wild animals. There is also a provision of subsidy on agricultural equipments and agricultural inputs for setting up drip irrigation system and management of clusters to ensure proper utilization of available water resources.
Under the project, 100 irrigation schemes would be developed to revolutionize horticulture, in which 60 percent of irrigation schemes would be revamped and 40 percent would be new irrigation schemes lower the dependence on rain water.
Under HP SHIVA Project, the orchardists are being organized in collaboration with AFC India Limited and being registered by forming cooperative societies. These committees would work for the collective management of the orchards being established under the project, collective production, value addition and processing of the crops produced and collective marketing, in addition to conducting other commercial activities related to fruits, for which the Horticulture Department would provide training to these committees and help in their capacity building. These committees would be linked with various service providers and markets through a multi-stakeholder platform so that the orchardists could be provided technical guidance and services along with cooperation in marketing.
For value addition to the crops produced, provisions are being made for the development of various infrastructures like packaging, sorting and grading houses, CA stores, processing units etc. Efforts are being made by the State government to ensure that the orchardists get fair price of their produce at their own orchards.
At present, horticulture has become one of the major factors of development in the agriculture sector in the state. The horticulture sector is providing employment opportunities in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. The climate change has relatively lesser impact on horticultural crops, especially fruit crops, due to which more and more people of the State are adopting horticulture.
These concerted efforts by the State government to promote horticulture in the State are giving a new impetus to the agricultural economy of the state. The day is not far when Himachal Pradesh will establish its identity as a fruit state.