SRINAGAR — Farmers in Jammu and Kashmir have been switching from traditional paddy farming as the Union Territory has witnessed over 400 per cent increase in the area under horticulture since 1975.
Figures from Agriculture Department Kashmir available with the news agency KINS say that from 1,62,309 hectares in 2012-2013, the area under paddy cultivation decreased to 1,34,067 hectares in 2021-2022.
According to figures from the Department of Horticulture Jammu and Kashmir, the area under horticulture cultivation was 82,486 hectares in 1975 which went up to 3,30,956 hectares in 2021, indicating around 400 per cent increase in the area under horticulture for the last 47 years.
Horticulture is the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy with seven lakh families, according to figures from the Horticulture Department Kashmir, directly or indirectly associated with the sector. Horticulture contributes over eight per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Jammu and Kashmir.
The conversion from agriculture to horticulture has one simple reason: fruits bring more money to farmers than rice.
A senior official said that horticulture gives far better returns to farmers than agriculture. “There are many government-sponsored schemes under which farmers can avail benefits to grow fruits on their land and increase the production,” he added.
Ghulam Rasool, a 50-year-old farmer from Anantnag, would grow paddy on 10 kanals of land, earning Rs 20,000 annually. “However, for the last many years, we have been cultivating apples on the same land which fetch us rupees three lakh annually. We have a family of six people and all are dependent on it. Farmers are switching from paddy to horticulture as it gives good returns,” he added.
Mohamad Abbas Wani, 50, and his family have been associated with fruit production for 30 years. “We grow fruits on 30 kanals of land. We have a family of 20 people and all are dependent on the earnings of apple produce. Besides, 20 people are also working with us during the cultivation season. We make a good earning out of it and fetch us rupees four lakh profit annually,” he added.