Kerala Horticulture Mission takes up ambitious projects

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Dr K. Prathapan, Director, State Horticulture Mission
Dr K. Prathapan, Director, State Horticulture Mission

G.K. Nair

Kochi, June 8

The State Horticulture Mission (SHM), Kerala, the nodal agency for implementing the programmes of the National Horticulture Mission (NHM), is set to launch a unique programme under the National Medicinal Plant Mission, to promote cultivation of 29 species of medicinal plants, most of which are endangered.

The NHM has already agreed in principle to invest Rs 49 crore for the programme and of this Rs 13 crore has already by sanctioned by the Centre, Dr K. Prathapan, Director, State Horticulture Mission, told Business Line.

“We have already listed out 29 species of medicinal plants for promoting their cultivation, as they are almost on the verge of extinction,” he said.

Self Help Groups and individual farmers will be motivated by providing adequate support to take up cultivation of medicinal plants, he said.

The SHM, which has been in existence in the State since 2005, has become very active of late by implementing various Centrally sponsored programmes of NHM effectively. Last week, it has handed over Rs 10 crore to the Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) out of its total share of Rs 13.5 crore for constructing the Centre for Perishable Cargo at the airport, at a total cost of Rs 58 crore.

The Agriculture Products Export Development Agency (APEDA) is the other partner, who would also contribute Rs 13.5 crore. CIAL will bear the rest of the cost.

Holistic approach

The main objective of the Mission is end-to-end holistic development of the horticulture sector covering fruits, vegetables, spices, flowers, aromatic plants and plantation crops, he said. The main stakeholders of the programme are farmers, SHGs, KVKs, NGOs, Department of Agriculture, KAU, Commodity Boards, Private entrepreneurs, PSUs etc.

The Mission programmes are implemented in 14 districts of the State and the crops identified for development are mango, gooseberry, banana, pineapple, pepper, ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, cashew, cocoa, flower crops and vegetables besides bee keeping and mushroom cultivation.

The programmes include production and productivity improvement, post harvest management and marketing.

The components under production and productivity improvement are establishment of nurseries for production of planting material, establishment of new gardens, rejuvenation of existing plantations, protected cultivation, organic farming, technology dissemination and bee keeping.

The important programmes included under post harvest management are establishment of integrated pack houses, sorting and grading units, cold storages etc. Under the marketing development establishment of rural markets, functional infrastructure for collection and grading, strengthening of wholesale market, market intelligence, extension quality awareness, and market led extension activities for fresh and processed food are envisaged.

The implementation of the State Horticulture Mission programmes is monitored at the State level by the Executive Committee chaired by the Agriculture Production Commissioner and Governing Body chaired by the Minister for Agriculture. At the District level there is a District Level Committee chaired by the District Collector for implementing the programmes.

The Mission Director is the Member Secretary of Executive Committee and Governing Body and Deputy Director of Agriculture (H) is the Member Secretary of the District Level Committee. The Principal Agricultural Officer is the Vice Chairman of the District Level Committee

He said that the State Agriculture Minister, Mr Mullakkara Ratnakaran and Mr K. Jayakumar, the Agriculture Production Commissioner, had been instrumental in the timely implementation of the SHM projects, he said.

The Central and State share of funds for the schemes could be drawn in time by submitting the detailed project reports conforming to the norms set by the concerned departments, he said.

“We could spent only 70 per cent of the funds allocated for 2008-09 due to some constraints related to post harvest management including packaging, grading etc”, he said. In fact, for developing the basic amenities in the market for the processing, sorting, packing and marketing of the agricultural products 25 to 33.33 per cent financial subsidy will be given on the basis of project reports.

During 2008 -09 the out lay sanctioned was Rs174.20 crore of which 148.07 crore was the central share and Rs 26.13 crore was the share of the state government. Even though the SHM started functioning from 2005 the programmes for 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 were started implementing during the agricultural season of 2006-07 onwards, he said.

Various schemes under implementation include Production and distribution of planting materials Establishment of New Gardens, Rejuvenation/Replacement of Senile plantations, Creation of water resources, Promotion of IPM, Organic Farming, Protected Cultivation through construction of green houses and shade nets, etc.

For instance, seeds of high yielding varieties of vegetables are scientifically produced and distributed to farmers. An amount of Rs50, 000 per hectare will be provided as financial assistance to government agencies and Rs25, 000 per hectare to farmers and other organisations for the production of vegetable seeds.

Similarly, to facilitate proper handling, storage, packing of seeds, assistance is provided for creating infrastructure like drying platforms, storage bins, production unit and related equipments, 100 per cent assistance will be provided to the public sector while assistance to the private sector will be credit linked and limited to 25 per cent of the total cost.

He said that special emphasis is given to organic farming of banana, ginger, pineapple and pepper. Rs 10,000 a hectare is provided for this as financial assistance. In addition, for getting organic group certification an amount of Rs 5 lakhs as subsidy will also be provided per hectare, he said.

To encourage mushroom production in the state, an amount of Rs 11,250 will be provided as financial assistance for a unit producing 200 kg of mushroom a year.

Dr Prathapan said that total allocation for the current financial year is Rs69 crore and it is expected to utilise the funds fully before the end of the fiscal.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 9, 2009)
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