The area under horticulture in Maharashtra is likely to double soon if the government gives the go-ahead. With an increasing demand for horticulture crops coming from the market and farmers getting better returns, the state’s department of horticulture has submitted a proposal to the government seeking to raise the area under cultivation from 22,310 hectares to 50 000 hectares this year under the Employment Guarantee Scheme, top officials of the directorate said.
The directorate has sought a grant of Rs 226.32 crore in the next three years for this purpose under this scheme.
According to Dr Sudam Adsul, director, horticulture, the area under horticulture has decreased in the last four years due to untimely rains and hailstorms which caused severe damage to the crops.
According to experts, much higher investment is needed for even half acre of horticulture business as compared with the requirement for a cash crop. But the returns are equally high. Sugarcane is a major cash crop in the state.
However farmers have had to struggle to get better rates for the produce. Compared with it, horticultural crops such as fruits and flowers have constant demand from consumers. Crops such as grapes have found their way to export markets in Europe, Russia and other emerging markets including Asia.
Therefore, there has been a shift to horticulture crops by farmers in Maharashtra.
Like the previous year, the department of horticulture is looking at 100% grant under the Employment Gaurantee Scheme and around 22,310 hectares was brought under horticulture in the year 2014-15, Adsul explained.
This year, the department is looking at doubling the acreage, he said.
At present, around 16 lakh hectares come under horticulture development in the state. Under the EGS, 50% grant is given in the first year, 30% grant in the second year and 20% is given in the third year.
Accordingly, in 2015-16, a grant of Rs 113.15 crore is expected to be released, Rs 67.83 crore in the following year and Rs 45.26 crore in the third year of operations, he said.
Mango, cashew, chiku, gauva, pomegranate, orange, sweet lime, limes, coconut, amla and spices among others are the main horticulture crops of Maharashtra.
Last year, the government had roped in actor Amitabh Bachchan as the horticulture ambassador for the state.
This year as well, untimely rains have affected horticulture crops including grapes, mango and cashew.
Around 80,000 tonne of raisins were damaged. Maharashtra produces around 1.5 lakh tonne of raisins. Grape exports were hit since grapes were cracked in most of the orchards.
India had exported about 5,000 containers of grapes to Europe, the most remunerative market for Indian grapes, last year. This year,a round 70 tonne of mango has been exported to Europe.