Horticulture sector, which provides livelihood to about 7 lakh families involving 33 lakh souls, has been allotted a meager 1 per cent of the total Rs 88,911 crore budget outlay for 2019-20.
Of the paltry Rs 500 crore earmarked for horticulture department, Rs 315 crore is capital expenditure and Rs 169.75 crore revenue expenditure.
Annually, horticulture sector earns Rs 7000 crore, which is by far higher than any other segment of the economy, including tourism, in the state.
The meager allocation for fruit industry is not new. According to budget details, in 2018-19, PDP-BJP government allocated Rs 528 crore.
In 2015-16, an amount of Rs 1959.88 crore was approved as grants for agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and cooperative sectors , of which an estimated Rs 500 crore were for horticulture.
According to official figures, horticulture sector generated a total wage employment of 7.71 crore man days in the year 2016-17 under apple orchards and others, emerging as one of the major sources for direct and indirect employment generation in the state.
One hectare of an apple orchard generates about 400 man days per year, besides also generating healthy employment in other allied sectors.
Horticulture sector has significantly expanded over the years with an area of 3.38 lakh hectares currently under cultivation, producing 23.55 lakh metric tons– fresh fruit 20.75 LMTs and dry fruit 2.80 LMTs.
“It is unfortunate that horticulture sector doesn’t get even 10 per cent of the budget allocation. We fail to understand that despite being a promising sector, government has always given it a cold shoulder,” said chairman Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Association Bashir Ahmad Basheer.
“How this sector can grow when there is no upgrade of infrastructural capacity,” he said.
Noted industrialist Shakeel Qalander said government’s priorities are different than what it should have been.
“We have been witnessing that the only component where budgetary allocation is witnessing an increase is salaries of government employees. All important sectors are being left out. Government must introspect that around 50 per cent of the manpower in J&K gets employment from agriculture and horticulture so it should get bigger bite of the budgetary pie,” he said.