‘I Want To Convert 50000 Hectares Of Orchards Into High Density Plantation’
A decade ago, a young man who had travelled across the globe and earned a degree in engineering from a reputed institution of the United States decided to do something for his native land Kashmir. And ten years down the line not only he has managed to prove his mettle but has given a new dimension to Valley’s horticulture industry.
And if growers will follow his ideas and model then time will not be far away that apple produced in the orchards of Kashmir will not only be able to compete in the international market but will increase the yield manifold. It will bring economic prosperity not only to the growers but also to the state as well.
Horticulture is Valley’s mainstay trade and currently around two million people are directly or indirectly associated with it. Despite being the backbone of the business, still this trade has not been designated as an industry which has left Valley growers in a state of lurch and they are still unable to take it to an advanced level.
Horticulture has sustained Kashmir in its worst times and proved a bastion in the growth of common masses due to circulation of money even during the days of turmoil. With the passage of time, however, this trade has showed a decline and growers are unable to keep pace with their competitors and over the years quality and packaging besides grading has been compromised.
Realizing the impediments, this trade especially the growers will face in near future, a young man from Shopian’s apple rich belt Pinjora – Khurram Shafi Mir decided to do something for his people and for the growers. He himself belongs to the family of apple growers.
After doing ground work on the Valley’s apple and other fresh fruit produced in various hamlets of Kashmir, especially in rural area the young man started studying models of apple and other fruits produced in different countries which in near future could prove a potential threat to Kashmir’s apple industry in shape of quality, yield and packaging especially in the international market.
To gain knowledge this young entrepreneur even travelled to many foreign countries, especially in the Europe and managed to attain first-hand account of the fruit industry especially apple produced and techniques used in those countries.
As he had already acquired a degree in the engineering it took Mir very little time to learn the nuances of the trade and pick up the techniques through which he could help the people back home.
Once back in his picturesque village in South Kashmir which had a beautiful Kail and Pine tree line surrounded with apple orchards, Mir started developing a big orchard on the modern lines at Bambdoora Kokernag. He went beyond conventional methods and established first hi-tech apple orchard on 20 kanals of land and within two years, the trees started yielding high variety of apples.
Around his orchard Mir created a unique atmosphere so that other growers will get attracted towards the new technology and will start adopting similar mechanism in their own orchards.
“It was one of the biggest orchards in our area. It was a scientific orchard with an aesthetic look,’’ said Ghulam Nabi, a village elder at Bamdoora. “When we saw young man cutting matured trees making way for fresh plants, everyone was surprised and thought he is axing his future. Even many villagers predicted his descend within few years. However all predictions proved wrong when small high density trees started yielding world class apples.’’
He said that usually, the new trees start producing fruit after a decade and here it was like a miracle. “After cutting matured trees of old varieties he started planting new trees and described them as high density plants. After two years, when these small trees started yielding produce, everyone was surprised.’’
Once first high density orchard was completed and started apple production people came from different parts of the Valley to see the innovation of this young man. “It was wonderful; so beautiful apples were hanging from small trees. I visited that orchard and was always thinking how I can do same in my orchard,’’ says an officer of J&K’s Horticulture department in south Kashmir.
Once Mir unveiled his orchard, top J&K government officers got surprised and amused at least after decades they had something to boast about the J&K horticulture sector.
And when former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed along with J&K’s former Finance Minister, Haseeb Drabu visited the village he got astonished over the work. Mufti seeing the work of young businessman asked his officers to replicate the same model across the Valley to help the growers as well as in state to boast the economy.
Though J&K’s Horticulture department had been experimenting plantation of High density trees in the Valley, however, this young entrepreneur gave a new shape to the future of the High density plantation. His dedication and facilities managed to bag him the biggest contract of High density plantation under state sector which he did without any delay. The well-kept orchards and the trees blooming with apples in the harvest season are testimony of his zeal and hard work. Though the scheme through which Khurrams firm H N Agri developed orchards is a government sponsored scheme, however such was the impact of this scheme that many growers now want to replicate the same model in their villages.
“There is a visible difference between the orchards developed by the team of this young man and the Horticulture department. He is using all his expertise which he has learned in different countries to make it a successful model,’’ said a grower in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal area who got an orchard developed through his firm. “I want he (Khurram) should convert my extra land into high density plantation,’’ he said.
The young entrepreneur who love books, hiking and coffee wants to see fruit industry in Kashmir as a major source of income.
“Currently by using old techniques our yield per hectare couldn’t cross 10 – 12 tons per hectare. By adopting high density model the yield after four five years could go up to 70 tons per hectare. Also quality wise we could compete with fruit produced anywhere in the world,’’ he says while asking young people who have orchards or land available at home to study his model. ‘’The high density plants could bring revolution and generate employment manifold. Only people should adopt this model.”
Mir spends most of his time in travelling and loves to engage conversation with villagers especially orchardists. ‘I want my growers should grow. I am ready to help anyone especially youngsters. I will teach them a model which they could replicate in their own areas. It needs dedication, success will come automatically.’’ Motivated by the dedication and the work of Mir the J&K government is now planning to convert around 50000 hectares of orchards into high density plantation.
“I want more and more people should come in this sector and this will help us to reshape our economy,’’ he says and adds that though it also has minor impediments, but gains are unlimited once we develop it properly.