Jammu and Kashmir’s agricultural exports are making waves internationally

Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory is fast becoming the export hub for agriculture and related goods and trade and export policies (2018-2028) along with numerous government schemes have boosted efficient manufacturing and marketing strategies, setting new benchmarks for J&K in the international market.

Over the past three years, the Union Territory has experienced record growth of about 55 percent in exports. A large part of this percentage consists of agricultural products.

Many export success stories are circulating in Jammu and Kashmir. Agricultural entrepreneurs have developed unique products such as cold saffron drinks, dispersible saffron kehwa tablets, apple chips, apple powder, walnut butter, and a mechanized, whole walnut processing chain.

J&K’s main agricultural exports include apples, barley, cherries, maize, millet, oranges, rice, peaches, pears, plums, walnuts, almonds, saffron, sorghum, wheat and vegetables. The exotic vegetables grown for export to Europe include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, lettuce and red cabbage.

The country’s renowned scientists and policy planners chaired by Dr. Mangala Rai prepare a futuristic roadmap for accelerated development of agriculture and related sectors.

70 percent of J&K’s economy is based on agriculture, so there are huge opportunities to unleash the real potential of agriculture and related sectors. The idea is to invest in crops that provide local food security and commercial export value. Value addition to Agri products, their processing, packaging and market reach are planned for the maximum profit per input.

A month ago, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha opened a two-day multi-stakeholder convention on the holistic development of agriculture and related sectors at Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Center (SKICC) Srinagar. It requires the concerted effort of all stakeholders to realize Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for J&K: food security, self-sufficiency and global leadership in agriculture.

Under the PMFME (Premier Formalization of Micro Food Processing Enterprises) program of “One District One Product”, the particular focus of J&K’s districts will be on the production of – Jammu – Dairy Products; Rajouri – Spices; Poonch – Processing of mutton and poultry; Kishtwar and Doda – Walnut processing; Ramban – Honey processing; Udhampur – pickles and jam; Reasi – Organic vegetables; Kathua – Spices; Samba – Mushrooms; Anantnag – Trout fishing; Pulwama – Saffron; Shopkeeper – Apple; Kulgam – Apple and Spices; Srinagar – Flowers; Budgam – Exotic vegetables; Baramulla – Dairy products; Kupwara – Walnut; Ganderbal – Honey; and Bandipora – processed poultry and mutton.

Beekeeping is one of the oldest professions in the state. Locally grown honey has been traded for centuries due to the flora of the valley. Beekeeping also allows the production of propolis, beeswax, bee venom, pollen and royal jelly.

As India is the sixth most important exporter of natural honey, Beekeepers in the Valley have a good base to conquer international markets such as Germany, USA, UK, Japan, France, Italy and Spain. The Prime Minister’s sweet revolution for beekeepers is a sure-fire strategy to increase the farmer’s income from just 10 percent to 80 percent.

In July, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST-K) in collaboration with Vaikunth Mehta National Institute of Cooperative Management (VAMNICOM, Pune) organized a four-day Agri-Export Marketing Training for Cooperatives and FPOs (Farmer-Producer Organization Scheme).

Such training programs provide hand-held support to farmers new to exporting. The participants were endowed with extensive knowledge and skills in various aspects of international marketing with a special focus on the export of apple, walnut and saffron crops. In order to increase farmers’ incomes, SKUAST-K offers many such short vocational training courses for skills development in the agro-processing sector.

Known as a treasure trove of spices, J&K is emerging as a brand name in the international market. Some of the widely exported herbs include: Dioscorea deltoidea (life-saving steroids); Echinacea angustifolia (immune system stimulants); Hypericum perforatum (antidepressant); Withania somnifera (nerve disorders); Aconitum heterophyllum (astringent/antidiabetic); Pyrethrum (insecticide); Atropa belladonna (antispasmodic); Podophyllum (against cancer); Rosa Damascena bulgaria (fragrance); Levendula officinalis (aroma); Salvia sclarea (perfumery); and Cymbopogon/Lemongrass (medicinal, aromatic).

The Union Territory is also witnessing a revolution in the cultivation of a particular, in-demand crop – lavender. It is grown in all 20 districts of Jammu and Kashmir as J&K provides the exact climatic conditions required by the crop.

Farmers are switching to the cultivation and processing of lavender because they can earn five times their average income on the same land. The purple blossoms are used for their therapeutic value in the form of oil and tea, food, perfume and medicinal value in homeopathy and Ayurveda.

With the efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture, traditional farmers in the valley have switched to high-density fruit orchards, such as apples and Italian pears. Horticultural products from J&K are praised worldwide for their quality and taste.

In the current fiscal year, the Lt Governor has emphasized organic and natural farming to keep the soil healthy and meet the growing demand for chemical-free products. Organic fertilizers such as compost manure, green manure, bone meal, biological pest control and the breeding of insectivorous rodents, in combination with planting techniques such as crop rotation, mixed cultivation and companion farming are encouraged.

Last year, the UT invited delegations from the Gulf and the Middle East to show its agricultural products. Kashmiri Saffron, Mishri Variety Kashmiri Cherries, Mushkbudji Fragrance Rice, Acacia Honey and Sea Buckthorn (juice, pulp, oil and tea) were sampled. They were immediately pre-ordered by all major hypermarkets, such as the Lulu Group. The Geographical Indications (GI) label that acts as a sign of trust has greatly helped to increase the volume of exports.

By creating the necessary ecosystem to promote Atmanirbharta and by collaborating with key stakeholders in the Agri-export value chains, Jammu and Kashmir are looking to a bright future. (ANI)

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