Agriculture being the mainstay of the people of Himachal Pradesh has an important role in the economy of the farmers. Efforts are afoot to make Himachal Pradesh self-sufficient in agriculture production and also improving economy of the farmers. Agriculture and allied sectors accounts for 30 per cent of the gross State Domestic Product. It provides direct employment to about 71 per cent of the main working population. Rs. 384 Crore is being spent on Agriculture Sector during this financial year.
In order to raise economic conditions of the farmers, diversification of cropping pattern has been given big boost in the State. Major emphasis has been laid on the production of off-season vegetables, quality vegetable seeds, potato and ginger besides soyabean, oil seeds and pulses. Out of total geographical area of 55.67 lakh hectare the area of operational holding is about 9.68 lakh hectare and is operated by 9.33 lakh farmers. The average holding size comes to 1.04 hectare. Distribution of land holdings according to 2005-06 Agriculture Census shows that 87.03 percent of the total holdings are of small and marginal farmers. 12.54 percent of holdings are owned by semi medium/medium farmers and only 0.43 percent by large farmers.
During the year 2012-13, agriculturally remained a good normal year. During the year 2012-13, the food grains production was achieved at a record level 15.68 lakh MT against 15.44 lakh MT during 2011-12. The production of potato was 1.83 lakh MT in 2012-13 as against 1.52 lakh MT in 2011-12. The production of vegetables during the year 2012-13 was 13.80 lakh MT as against 13.57 lakh MT in 2011-12.
The diverse agro-climatic conditions of the State provide ample opportunities for crop-diversification with high value crops. The State has a great potential for producing off-season vegetables. The annual production of off-season vegetables in the State has reached a level of 14 lakh Metric Tonnes with a total turnover of about Rs. 2 Thousand 500 Crore. There is still a vast scope for expansion of off-season vegetables, as only about 10% of the cropped area has been brought under vegetable cultivation till now. State Government has emphasising to cover an additional 4 Thousand Hectare area under off-season vegetables during the year 2014-15 and budget provision of Rs. 55 Crore has been made for this purpose.
‘Dr. Y.S. Parmar Kisan Swarozgar Yojana’ is being implementing in the State with an outlay of Rs. 100 Crore. Under this scheme, a target of constructing 4,700 poly-houses covering 8.30 Lakh square meter area has been set up. The farmers are being provided a total of 85 percent subsidy by converging the subsidy under Horticulture Technology Mission. The project will be phased over 3 years up to 2016-17. This will not only increase the production of vegetables, but also create employment opportunities for about 20 thousand people.
The Government is also exploring the possibility of Coffee cultivation in our State. The Coffee Board, Government of India has already surveyed prospective areas. There is a potential of Coffee cultivation in the districts of Kangra, Mandi, Una and Bilaspur. During 2014-15, coffee demonstration trials will be carried out in these districts under the technical guidance of Coffee Board.
‘Mukhya Mantri Adarsh Krishi Gaon Yojana’ was started during 2013-14 covering one Panchayat of each constituency. Each Panchayat was provided Rs. 10 Lakh as Gap Filling Fund for creation and upgradation of agriculture infrastructure, which has yielded good results. This scheme is extended in another 68 Panchayats, one additional Panchayat in each Constituency in 2014-15 with an allocation of Rs. 6.80 Crore.
Agriculture Marketing has also been given the highest priority by the State Government to ensure remunerative prices to the farmers. For this propose, Market Yards and sub-yards are being set up at various places on scientific basis. Market Yards at Mehendli, Fatehpur, Anu, Bhadshali, Jukhala, Totu, Tapri and Shillai are also being set up during 2014-15.
The Government is dedicated to serve the farming community by implementing various Developmental Programmes and disseminating the relevant technology to increase productivity, production and profitability of field crops. The natural endowments like soil, land, water etc. are being harnessed in such a way that cherished goals of ecological sustainability, economic upliftment of farming community are achieved. About 18-20% area is irrigated and rest is rain fed.
Agriculture Department owns 25 Seed Farms where foundation seeds of Kharif and Rabi crops are produced. Annually about 3500 to 4000 quintals seed of cereals, pulses and vegetables are produced in these farms. Further about 90,000 quintals of certified seeds of various crops are distributed to the farmers in the state. Under this scheme, expenditure on seed farms, seed stores, seed testing and certification, subsidy on transportation of cereals, subsidy on cost of seeds is met. There is a budget provision of Rs. 387.00 lakh for the year, 2014-2015.
Department has 11 Soil Testing Laboratories besides 4 mobile soil testing labs to provide free soil testing facilities to the farmers. About 100,000 samples are analyzed annually. Besides this Soil Health Cards are being provided to the farmers. About one lac farmers are being covered every year.
In order to strengthen the Soil Testing Services in view of Hon'ble Chief Minister Budget Announcement, all the Soil Testing Laboratories shall have to be strengthened. In order to provide Soil Health Cards to all farming families, the Soil Testing programme is to be continued in 12th Plan period. Every year, target of 1.25 lakh Soil Sampling Analysis and issuing of Soil Health Cards has been fixed keeping in view the capacity of Soil Testing Lab in the State. During XIIth Five Year Plan period (2012-2017) and Annual Plan 2014-2015, an outlay of Rs. 219.00 lakh and Rs. 78.00 lakh has been proposed to strengthening of Soil Testing services in the State.
The Department exercise vigil on pest situation. Pesticide Testing Laboratory at Shimla has been set up with a capacity of 150 to 250 samples per year. One Bio Control Laboratory has been set up at Palampur and Mandi where conservation pest situation augmentation, rearing and multiplication of bio-agents and training to extension staff and farmers are being done. The plant protection material including equipments are supplied to the SCs/STs/IRDP families and farmers of the backward areas at 50% cost. There is a budget provision of Rs. 22.98 lakh for the year, 2014-2015.
Himachal Pradesh gained reputation for the cultivation of off-season vegetables and production of quality vegetable seeds. There is a great demand of off-season vegetables in the plains. The ongoing programme i.e. cultivation of off-season vegetables and production of vegetable seeds is proposed to be strengthened and organized on an extensive scale during 12th Plan period for providing higher income and employment. The suitable areas in the State for the purpose of vegetable cultivation would be intensively surveyed and identified and the farmers in the newly identified areas would be encouraged to take up these programme, demonstration on vegetables cultivation and subsidy on agricultural inputs will be provided to the small and marginal farmers especially to the Scheduled Caste farmers in these areas so that the farm income of these rural poor can be improved and country can be supplied with the vegetable in off-season. The cropping pattern shifts from cereals to vegetables would be specially monitored in all such areas as are being brought under the culturable command area of the new irrigation schemes. For this purpose, an outlay of Rs. 4.03 crore and 60.00 lacs has been proposed for XIIth Five Year Plan period (2012-2013) and Annual Plan 2014-2015 respectively so that the income of the farmers of the state may be increased.