New Zealand High Commissioner Ms Joanna Kempkers along-with other delegates met Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur at Oak Over here today and discussed various issues pertaining to provide and impart technical knowhow in horticulture and related industry.Welcoming Joanna Kempkers and others, the Chief Minister apprised the New Zealand delegates about the horticulture practices in the existing orchards besides expanding it in other districts like Mandi, Chamba and Sirmaur. He said he was grateful to Government of India and World Bank for having agreed to fund Rs. 1134 crore Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Development Project for the state to support the introduction of new technologies in horticulture sector.The Chief Minister said that the road map of “High-Tech” horticulture would not only revolutionize the horticulture sector in the state but also ameliorate the fate of Himachali fruit growers for a better and prosperous tomorrow. He expressed happiness over the progress made by New Zealand in producing high quality apple per hectare, which remarkably averages around 65 MT per hectares and New Zealand was providing technical knowhow to as many as 60 to 70 countries. I am hopeful that the experts from New Zealand shall extend/impart the technical knowhow to the experts of Horticulture department and the peasants in my state for better socio-economic returns and upliftment of the lives of the common man, said the Chief Minister. By joining hands with farming expertise from New Zealand, one of the world leading fruit producers, will certainly help the fruit growers of Himachal in big way, he added. He exhorted the experts that challenge before them was to enhance the productivity in the state from 6-7 metric tonne to at least 50% of the productivity in their country.
Jai Ram Thakur said his government was fully aware of the challenges the growers were facing. Threat of climate change world-wide had forced fruit growers/agriculturists to adapt the new innovations in crop diversification. Rejuvenation of traditional, old and low productive orchards in present scenario was the need of the hour.Thanking the Himachal Pradesh Government for its positive engagement, New Zealand High Commissioner Ms Joanna Kempkers said that the decision to contract New Zealand experts was a recognition of our world-class horticulture industry that was known for its high productivity, fruit quality and innovation in apple production.She added that this project was a welcome progression to the long-standing association of New Zealand experts with horticulturists of the State. She said that New Zealand and Indian apple farmers were not competitors in the market but partners. It was a pleasure for consultants to be engaged here, she said as it would help in improving the productivity and management of orchards and contribute to creating more jobs and bettering livelihoods.New Zealand’s entire horticultural sector was globally renowned for being innovative, sophisticated, and highly productive, backed by sound science and world best practices.The New Zealand apple and pear industry has the highest productivity in the world, averaging 65 metric tonnes per hectare per annum which is more than 50% higher than our nearest competitor. World’s best production and post-harvest systems and practices have earned the industry an international reputation for producing fruit of the highest quality. This project will provide growers in the Himachal Pradesh province of India with access to New Zealand expertise to help improve the productivity of their orchards in terms of both yield and quality, and subsequently generate better returns for their growers.
Highlighting the priorities of the state, Horticulture Minister Mahendar Singh Thakur said that the focus should also be on sub-tropical areas as well and not to be concentrated to a particular pocket or region of the state. The Minister also inquired about the irrigation component for the root stocks. He said that the government was to improve economic conditions of small and marginal farmers of the State that accounts around 85 percent of the total fruit growing farmers in the State including 33% women farmers. He hoped that the approach of community participation and scope of self-employment generation such as agri-business promotion facility and Community Service Centres were the key factors of the project that will bring smile on the faces of our State Fruit Growers.Apprising the dignitaries on the occasion, Principal Secretary Horticulture J.C. Sharma opined that team of foreign expertise will play a pivotal role in guiding, monitoring and training on scientific and new innovative technologies that are being implemented under the Project.Contract agreement has already been signed between a team of experts from New Zealand, including the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research and Project Authorities of Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Development Project, following guidelines and due process envisaged by the World Bank.The Chief Minister honoured the dignitaries with Himachali cap and Shaw. Others accompanying Joanna Kempkers were Dr Neil Kennington, Regional Agricultural Attache’, Ms Sudha Palit, Senior Business Manager and Mr Debarshi Dasgupta Sr. Policy Advisor were also present from the New Zealand High Commission.Member of Parliament Ram Swaroop Sharma, Additional Chief Secretary, Finance Dr. Shrikant Baldi, Additional Chief Secretary cum Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Manisha Nanda and Other Senior Government officers were also present on the occasion.