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Industry Urged Utrakhand Govt. for a Separate Hill Farming Policy

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Uttarakhand needs to promote a separate hill farming policy as the state has a meagre 14 per cent net sown area, more so as 3/5th of the state’s total working population is engaged in agriculture, noted a recent ASSOCHAM-RNCOS joint study.

DEHRADUN/NEW DELHI: “The performance of Uttarakhand in agriculture and allied activities has not been up to the mark as its share in the gross state domestic product (GSDP) had declined sharply from over 22 per cent in 2004-05 to just over nine per cent in 2014-15,” highlighted the study titled ‘Agri business outlook in Uttarakhand,’ conducted by ASSOCHAM jointly with research firm RNCOS.

The study was released by Mr D.S. Rawat, secretary general, ASSOCHAM along with Mr Shushmul Maheshwari, founder and chief executive officer, RNCOS at a press conference held in Dehradun today.

In terms of issues being faced by farm sector in Uttarakhand, the ASSOCHAM-RNCOS study highlighted that low level of land holdings is a key challenge as over 70 per cent of state’s farmers hold less than one hectare of land.

Considering that topography of Uttarakhand is characterised by sandy soils that do not retain water and due to unavailability of moisture in the soil, state has recorded poor crop productivity has so much so that agriculture sector clocked just about three per cent CAGR between 2004-05 and 2014-15.

In terms of year-on-year growth rate, Uttarakhand’s agriculture and allied sector has registered over five per cent growth in 2014-15 which is better than negative growth of 2.5 per cent recorded in the previous year.

“Priority must be given to further developing irrigation infrastructure in Uttarakhand including the canal network and also lift canals, tube-well, pump sets and others,” said Mr Rawat.

“Together with promotion of local and traditional hill crops, farmers must also be given adequate cover in terms of welfare schemes, besides adequate technical and financial support for water conservation should also be extended by the state administration,” he added.

“Apart from this, steps should be taken to encourage improved agronomic practices for higher farm productivity, improved soil treatment, increased water holding capacity, judicious use of chemicals and enhanced soil carbon storage,” further said Mr Rawat.

Uttarakhand food and agro based sector has attracted investments worth over Rs 1,600 crore as of financial year (FY) 2015-16 increasing from about Rs 450 crore as of FY 2010-11 thereby clocking a CAGR of over 29 per cent, according to analysis of ASSOCHAM Economic Research Bureau (AERB).

The share of food and agro based industries has also increased from 0.4 per cent in total investments worth over Rs 98,960 crore attracted by Uttarakhand in FY 2010-11 to 1.1 per cent in total investments worth Rs 1.4 lakh crore attracted by the state in FY 2015-16, noted the chamber’s analysis.

The ASSOCHAM-RNCOS study has suggested the state to focus on strengthening rural economy by focusing more on dairy sector by imparting technical assistance for dairy development in Uttarakhand, more so as milk production in the state grew by just about one per cent between 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Strengthening of dairy farms, genetic up-gradation of cattle through induction of genetic variability in female germ plasma and establishment of goat units are some of the key initiatives that can help boost dairy production in the state, it suggested.

The state should promote poultry, fisheries, food processing, horticulture, agro-based, medicinal and aromatic herbs as thrust industries by offering a wide range of incentives and subsidies.

Besides, the state government in tandem with private sector should set up strong infrastructure backed by efficient supply chains in food and agro processing sector to increase farmers’ income and promote employment opportunities in rural areas.

Holistic development to achieve the goal of reducing yield gaps in important crops through focussed interventions and good productive practices is imperative for the state to improve its performance in agriculture and allied activities sector.

The state should aim to make agriculture more productive, sustainable, remunerative and climate resilient by promoting location specific, integrated/composite farming systems.

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