The government plans to launch an Atmanirbhar Clean Plant Programme to improve the availability of disease-free quality planting material for high-value horticultural crops. The total outlay on the project is estimated at ₹2,200 crore. It is likely to boost several horticultural crops including fruits, vegetables, spices, plantation crops and flowers among others.

Though the fine print on the exact contour of the programme is not readily available at present, the industry expects the project to help improve crop productivity and yields to great extent.

Horticulture is estimated to contribute close to 30 per cent of the agriculture Gross Domestic Product (GDP) using only 13.1 per cent of gross cropped area. However, the sector faces the problem of post-harvest losses, lack of storage infrastructure, price seasonality and market volatility among others, industry sources said.

Production doubled

Horticulture production in India has more than doubled from 146 million tonnes (mt) in 2001-02 to 329.86 mt in 2020-21 whereas the production of foodgrains increased from 213 mt to 308.65 mt during the same period, said a study by NABARD in 2021.

According to Karthik Jayaraman, Co-Founder and MD, WayCool Foods, disease infestation has been a dire problem affecting 35 per cent of total crop productivity. The Atma Nirbhar Clean Plant programme with a budget allocation of ₹2,200 crore will offer farmers access to the availability of disease-free, clean planting material, benefitting crop yield in large numbers.

The government has emphasised the need for inclusive development and green growth and this would be incomplete unless regenerative agriculture is boosted for better yield and productivity, said Vivek Nirmal, CEO, KisanKonnect Safe Food. “The launch of an Atmanirbhar Clean Plant programme is one step in this direction and the clean plants will increase the supply of disease-free and quality planting materials such as seeds for better crops,” he pointed out.

The funds under the programme should be used for indigenous seeds and not for GM hybrid seeds, said Ruchit Garg, Founder & CEO, Harvesting India. “We as a country have to save our indigenous varieties if we want to have food sovereignty. It is also expected that some money should go towards the research on the indigenous varieties rather than on hybrid GM seeds. The indigenous varieties are better in terms of nutrition as well as drought and flood resistance,” he said.