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Using horticulture to strengthen Maharashtra’s bond with Kashmir

The state’s grape growers to teach young technology to farmers in the valley to enhance the export potential of their high-end fruits

Maharashtra’s economic and agricultural relations with Kashmir have been determined to advance through horticulture, and Pune’s horticultural scientists are at the forefront of the practice.

Last week, a delegation of youth from apple growing families in Kashmir met with Sopan Kanchan, Director, Sohan Kanchan, the top cooperative of the state’s grape growers and exporters – to learn techniques to increase the export potential of high-end fruits . And the livelihood of farmers in the valley will improve. “We discussed details related to the marketing, technology and quality aspects of grape and pomegranate cultivation to add value during cultivation and harvesting,” he said.

The delegation was led by Adil Malik, a Pune-based NGO, Sarhad, working to change the lives of students living in conflict zones. In recent years, Sarhad has launched several programs aimed at the betterment of farmers and artisans in Jammu and Kashmir.

While farmers in Maharashtra are successfully exporting various high-end fruits, Mr. Kanchan said that Kashmiri apple growers have to change their mindset and work on a focused marketing plan to compete in the world market.

“If Nashik can become a grape-export hub in northern Maharashtra, Kashmir, too, can turn into one for apples and dried fruits. But it will take some time and the younger generation will have to take it seriously. The famous apples of Kashmir can definitely compete in the international market, ”said Mr. Kanchan, President of Indian Horticulture and former Director of National Horticulture Board.

Generate employment

Speaking to Hindu, Sanjay Nahar, Founder, Sarhad, said that the youth not only wanted to increase their family income, but also wanted to generate employment for other youths in the Valley.

Mr. Nahar said that cold storage and testing labs would be set up in two districts in Maharashtra and Kashmir and the youth would coordinate with local farmers, mandis and traders. Mr. Malik said the initiative was taken during the direct marketing of agricultural produce from Kashmir in Pune and visits by farmer leaders like Raju Shetty, head of the Swabhimani Shetkari Organization (SSS).

Mr. Kanchan said that he has urged the delegation to bring Kashmiri farmers to Nashik to see how the packaging and grading was done. He said, “I have also advised him to bring his quality produce to Pune. We will help them sell their produce. Consumers here will surely buy juicy apples at a good price, which will benefit the farmers of Kashmir, whose income is declining under the onslaught of COVID-19 epidemic, ”said Mr. Kanchan.

Boosts confidence

Mr. Malik said that such exchanges would help in boosting the confidence of Kashmiri farmers. “There is no awareness of quality improvement among Kashmiri farmers. Mr. Kanchan has assured us full assistance in marketing, packaging, grading and storage of fruits. Earlier, through the outskirts, we had brought two truckloads of apples to Pune for direct marketing on two occasions and the response was heartfelt, ”said Mr. Malik. He said that a delegation of 52 apple growers planned to visit Pune and other places in the state.

Last month, the NGO hosted the Jammu and Kashmir Handicrafts Sale Festival to support artisans whose livelihoods were badly affected due to the epidemic.

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