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Using horticulture to strengthen Maharashtra’s bonds with Kashmir

(Left) Sopan Kanchan, director of MAHAGRAPES, and Aadil Malik, who is associated with Pune-based NGO, Sarhad.  

Maharashtra’s economic and agricultural ties with Kashmir are set to get a further boost through horticulture, and Pune’s horticulturists are at the forefront of this exercise.

Last week, a delegation of youths from apple-growing families in Kashmir met with Sopan Kanchan, director, MAHAGRAPES — the apex co-operative body of the State’s grape growers and exporters — to learn techniques to enhance the export potential of high-end fruits and improve the livelihood of farmers in the Valley. “We discussed details pertaining to the marketing, technology and quality aspects of grape and pomegranate farming in order to add value during cultivation and harvesting,” he said.

The delegation was led by Aadil Malik, who is associated with Pune-based NGO, Sarhad, which has been working to bring a change in the lives of students living in conflict zones. In recent years, Sarhad has embarked on a string of programmes aimed at the betterment of farmers and artisans in Jammu & Kashmir.

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

“If Nashik in north Maharashtra could become a grape-export hub, then Kashmir, too, could be transformed into one for apples and dried fruits. But it will take some time and the younger generation has to take it seriously. The famed apples of Kashmir can definitely compete in the international market,” said Mr. Kanchan, president of Confederation of Indian Horticulture and former director of the National Horticulture Board.

Generating employment

Speaking to The Hindu, Sanjay Nahar, founder, Sarhad, said the youths not only wanted to increase their own family incomes but also wished to generate employment for other youths in the Valley.

Mr. Nahar said cold storages and testing labs would be set up in two districts in Maharashtra and Kashmir and the youths will coordinate with local farmers, mandis and traders. This initiative was conceptualised during the direct marketing of farm produce from Kashmir in Pune as well as visits of farmer leaders like Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) chief Raju Shetti, said Mr. Malik.

Mr. Kanchan said he had urged the delegation to bring Kashmiri farmers to Nashik in order to see how packaging and grading was done. “I have also advised them to bring their 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 incomes are reeling under the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mr. Kanchan.

Boosting confidence

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

Last month, the NGO had hosted a Jammu & Kashmir handicraft sales festival to support artisans whose livelihoods were acutely hit owing to the pandemic.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 7:42:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/using-horticulture-to-strengthen-maharashtras-bonds-with-kashmir/article33989574.ece

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