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“Horticulture Plays Crucial Role in Doubling Farmers' Income & Ensuring Nutritional Security”: Tomar at National Horticulture Fair

Tomar stated via video conference that it is a well-known fact that horticulture plays an important role in doubling farmers' income and providing essential nutritional security. Rapid increases in the production and availability of horticultural crops will aid in the country's nutritional security.

Shivam Dwivedi
Horticulture contributes significantly to agricultural exports worth more than Rs. 4 lakh crore.
Horticulture contributes significantly to agricultural exports worth more than Rs. 4 lakh crore.

Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh yesterday (February 22) launched the four-day National Horticulture Fair on Innovative Horticulture for Self-Sufficiency, which will highlight the latest technologies developed by the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bengaluru, under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), for the benefit of productive farmers and other stakeholders.

Horticulture production has increased 13 times from 25 million tonnes in 1950-51 to 331 million tonnes in 2020-21, which is more than food grain production, according to Union Minister. With 18% of the land area, this sector contributes approximately 33% of the gross value to agricultural GDP. The sector is regarded as a driver of economic growth and is gradually evolving into an organized industry involving seed trading, value addition, and exports. Horticulture contributes significantly to agricultural exports worth more than Rs. 4 lakh crore.

The government prioritizes agriculture and farming under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership; thus, many major provisions for agriculture and farmers' welfare have been made in the fiscal year 2023-24. The budget's goal is inclusive and comprehensive development of farmers, in addition to the poor and middle classes, women, and youth. It focuses on promoting agricultural modernization by connecting agriculture with technology so that farmers can reap greater long-term benefits.

He stated that Rs 2,200 crore has been budgeted for the development of the horticulture sector, specifically for the AatmaNirbhar (self-sufficient) clean plants programme. Efforts have been made with this provision to promote the availability of disease-free, high-quality planting material for high-value horticultural crops. In addition, the Horticulture sector will benefit greatly from the Cluster Development Programme. The Prime Minister has taken the initiative to make Natural Farming a mass movement, with a budget of Rs 459 crore set aside for this purpose.

In three years, one crore farmers will receive financial assistance for natural farming, and 10,000 bio input research centres will be established. A budget allocation has also been made for farmers to fully utilise technology. FPO is a revolutionary step towards raising the standard of living of Small and Medium Farmers, and the benefits have begun to flow to these farmers. Horticulture FPOs are also becoming useful to farmers.

Tomar stated that the United Nations has declared the International Year of Millets 2023 on the proposal of the Government of India, for which he has called for maximum publicity and increased consumption of millets. According to Tomar, Agri Startups are also moving quickly in this direction. He urged farmers to help reduce imports, increase exports, and contribute to the resolution of the challenges. He expressed confidence that this horticulture fair will raise awareness among farmers/stakeholders about the latest horticulture crop technologies for sustainable production, as well as expand the scope for processing and export promotion, allowing India to become a global player in the Horticulture sector.

Tomar noted that IIHR, as one of the country's premier institutes, is known for conducting basic research in horticulture crops to ensure the long-term and economic development of farmers in general, and that the technologies developed at IIHR contribute more than Rs. 30,000 crore annually to the ever-expanding horticulture sector.

The institute is working on 54 horticulture crops and has developed over 300 horticulture crop varieties and hybrids for the benefit of various stakeholders, which are popular in North-Eastern states and other regions. The institute has done remarkable work in linking biodiversity with the livelihoods of jackfruit and tamarind custodian farmers, and this model can be applied to other horticultural crops. The Institute has begun work on exotic fruit crops (Kamalam, Avocado, Mangosteen, Rambutan) that will help reduce imports, and the Institute's new variety of watermelons will help reduce seed imports. Tomar urged scientists to take the challenge of reducing imports seriously.

Union Minister Tomar stated that under protected cultivation, bee pollination in melon and ridge gourd has impressed many people and should be expanded for the benefit of hi-tech horticulture. Farm mechanisation for onion production, from seeding to marketing, will benefit needy farmers. The SBI Yono Seed Portal's effort to ensure the availability of seed-planting material is commendable. This has enabled farmers in 28 states to obtain seeds for horticulture crops. He was pleased that more than 150 technologies had been licenced through Agri-Innovate, ICAR's commercial arm, generating an annual production of around Rs 4 crore.

Dr. A.K. Singh, Deputy Director General, presided over the event (Horticulture Science). On this occasion, dignitaries present included APEDA General Manager R. Ravindra, Dr. Baldev Raj Gulati, Director, ICAR-NIVEDI, Dr. S.K. Singh, Director, IIHR, SPH Vice President Dr. C. Ashwath, and Organizing Secretary Dr. R.K. Venkat Kumar. Best Farmer awards were given to Sushant Kumar Patra, Pinku Debnath, G. Swami, Sangram Kesari Pradhan, Vidya, Siddharthan, and Polepalli Sudhakar. The guests released souvenir and a handbook on 'Vegetable Production Techniques'.

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