In what could be termed as cracking whip on delinquent officers, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti bluntly told officers of the state agriculture department to either take working in the department seriously or else they would be replaced with experts from outside the state to obtain desirable results.
Mehbooba made it clear to the officers of agriculture department that her government will not tolerate officers who confine themselves to routine administrative work, restricted to distribution of seeds and fertilizers. She said that the officers of agriculture department should not ignore the more important component of extension work and demonstration of technology to the farmers.
A peeved Mehbooba said that there is need for fundamental change in working so that shortage of food-grains is met by becoming self-sufficient in agriculture production. “Unless technology travels from laboratory to farms, there is very little we can do to enhance crop output,” she stated.
As farming is a low-margin, labour-intensive activity, the Chief Minister reminded the officers of their responsibility to produce results so that we shrug off the tag of having ‘untapped agriculture potential’. “We need to show visibility of schemes by ensuring access of quality seeds, irrigation and power to the farming community in an absolutely hassle-free manner,” she insisted
She made these comments while reviewing functioning of the agriculture production department (APD) at the civil secretariat here today. She said “Our land is fertile and we have enough water resources. I wonder why our production is not picking up.” She expressed concern over using only the third of the state’s potential in agriculture sector. Indicating a tie-up between the farmers and the agriculture entrepreneurs, Mehbooba Mufti said the job of the department is to increase productivity so that there is corresponding rise in the farmers’ income.
Citing an example, she correlated the surge in the prices of pulses with inability of the department to promote its cultivation, despite having the right climatic conditions in the state. “There is a need for shift in strategy and approach and the change should be visible from this sowing season,” she stated. Chief Minister said despite huge export potential in saffron, basmati and apple cultivation, we have been unable to penetrate international markets on a much bigger scale.
“We lack quality control, which is why the genuineness of our products is questioned from time-to-time,” she observed. Mehbooba highlighted the huge export potential of cut flower business, for which she asked the Floriculture Department to prepare a comprehensive proposal. She noted with concern inability to extract tangible benefits out of several government schemes like the National Saffron Mission, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, setting up of Farm Information Advisory Centre and Online National Agricultural Marketing Portal.
To aggressively market J&K’s potential in high-quality crops, the Chief Minister tasked the Agriculture Department to set up model villages for Basmati at R. S. Pura and Mushkbudgi at Sagam, near Kokernag. She said that she will personally monitor the progress of the model villages so that it has a cascading effect on other high-yielding crops and fruits in the state. As a testament to the fertility of the land for certain kind of crops, she suggested popularizing the concept of model villages for basmati, mushkbudgi, apple, saffron and walnut to set the agriculture sector rolling on the path of recovery.
“Our land is fertile and we have enough water resources. I wonder why our production is not picking up,” she questioned, while expressing concern over using only the third of the state’s potential in agriculture sector. Similarly, she passed directions to set up two model villages for saffron at Samboora, in Pulwama and Kishtwar, in Jammu division, respectively. In order to rejuvenate the saffron cultivation, the Chief Minister set a deadline of six weeks for the Agriculture Department to install sprinkler irrigation system in the saffron fields to boost production.
Under the National Saffron Mission, the government is spending Rs.400.11 crore to rejuvenate the saffron production on around 3715 ha of land at Pulwama, Budgam, Srinagar and Kishtwar districts. Mehbooba Mufti also fixed a timeline of four months to make the Spice Park at Dussoo, Pampore, functional. She was informed that a quality lab, packaging line and e-marketing facilities will be provided once the park is commissioned.