Himachal Pradesh, whose economy largely banks on agriculture and horticulture, aims to develop bio villages by promoting organic farming. The state is also eyeing investment in cold chains. An additional 2,000 hectares will be brought under organic farming and there are plans to develop 200 bio-villages in the next fiscal, a government spokesperson told IANS. He said farmers in the bio-villages would use only bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides and discourage the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticide for cultivating vegetables and fruits.
For meeting the demand of organic manure, the government in its budget for 2017-18 has proposed to set up 20,000 vermi-compost units with 50 per cent assistance to the farmers. To promote organic farming, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh presenting the state Budget 2017-18 on March 8 said the best three organic farmers would be awarded Rs 3 lakh, Rs 2 lakh and Rs 1 lakh respectively. More than 36,000 farmers are already cashing in on the high demand and remunerative prices of organic food — be it fruits, vegetables or pulses, the spokesperson said.
Agriculture is the mainstay of people in the hill state, providing direct employment to 69 per cent population. To ensure balanced use of nutrients, the state’s soil health cards scheme is in operation. Over four lakh soil cards have been issued to the farmers. Interestingly, farmers in Himachal Pradesh’s landlocked valleys like Pangi in Chamba district and Dodra Kwar in Shimla district have never used pesticides and fertilisers for growing crops.
Rajeev Negi, a Dodra Kwar farmer, has been growing organic rajma (kidney beans) that command remunerative prices in the domestic market. “On an average, we are getting Rs 200 to Rs 250 for a kg of rajma. They are fetching 40 to 50 per cent higher prices in export,” he said. Most of the farmers who adopted organic farming are in the Rampur area in upper Shimla district, where pilot organic farming projects were launched in 2005. According to the Chief Minister, the World Bank aided Horticulture Development Project of Rs 1,134 crore would be made fully operational in 2017-18.
Under this project, besides enhancing productivity of tropical and sub-tropical fruits and vegetables, it is proposed to invest a large sum in improving post-harvest infrastructure like automatic packaging, grading lines, cold storage and processing plants. He said marketing infrastructure would be upgraded in all market yards of the state Agro-Produce Marketing Committee. To promote cultivation of Kiwi, the government will provide 50 per cent subsidy for purchasing of saplings in the next fiscal.