National Conference has said that Mehbooba Mufti’s belated, cosmetic and completely misplaced concern in the Parliament about the Horticulture sector in Kashmir was extremely ironic when seen in the backdrop of PDP’s shockingly dismal performance and anti-fruit-grower policies in the Horticulture Sector during the tenure of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.“There are some very pertinent and pointed questions that Mehbooba Mufti should answer before waxing eloquent for the cameras in the Parliament about the Horticulture Sector: What did PDP do for Horticulture when they were in power? Nothing! How many orchards did PDP get vacated from the occupation of Security Forces? None! Why didn’t they do absolutely anything in the field of Post Harvesting? No vision! What made them stay silent about the exploitation of the fruit-grower by commission agents and pre-harvest contractors? PDP leadership’s complicity with horticulture sharks and exploiters! Why did PDP suffocate and torment the fruit grower by denying him credit opportunities and avenues? Because of PDP’s overt faith in crony-capitalism!”NC Spokesman Junaid Azim Mattu said, in a statement issued to KNS.
“Mehbooba Mufti clearly lacks a nuts and bolts understanding of the Horticulture Sector in the State. Somebody should tell her that the biggest challenges that were faced by our fruit growers when PDP relinquished power in 2008 was a neo-feudal system of lending by commission agents encouraged by PDP, an anti-grower system of extension of credit to commission agents patronized by PDP and PDP’s planned assault on the rights of the fruit growers as safeguarded under the Agricultural Produce Marketing [Regulation] Act of 1997 brought in by a National Conference government.
When PDP was in power they deliberately chose to remain on the sidelines on all these issues because of their proximity with, and support to commission agents and pre-harvest contractors in the Horticulture Sector”, Mattu said. The NC Spokesman said that it was National Conference took systemic initiatives in the banking and horticulture sectors aimed at achieving a reframing of lending guidelines to eradicate feudal system and usurious lending by commission agents in violation of rules and regulations. The NC Spokesman that it was because of the efforts of National Conference that more than a hundred thousand inpidual apple growers in Kashmir don’t have to approach moneylenders and middlemen for loans anymore – a practice of exploitation that was patronized and supported by PDP. “The initiatives of the NC government has seen tangible returns for the fruit-growers with number of fruit-growers taking loans directly crossing almost one hundred thousand in the last two years.
Plans and efforts are underway to finance another two lakh growers across the Valley directly and to increase the exposure of the J&K Bank to the fruit economy to more than 4,000 crores in line with Omar Abdullah’s commitment to ensure the Horticulture Sector receives the support on the lines of a thrust, priority sector”, the NC Spokesman said.“The fruit production in the State has risen from 16.90 lakh tonnes in 2008 to 21.17 lakh tonnes in 2013 which is an increase of almost 20% in just five years. This has also been possible because around 50,000 additional hectares of land were brought under fruit cultivation while around 12,000 hectares of orchard land was rejuvenated and rehabilitated. National Conference aims at taking the per-hectare production in horticulture up to 30 tonnes per hectare in the near future. ”, the NC Spokesman said while adding that it was the Omar Abdullah led government that made agriculture sector almost tax free and various facilities and concessions are being provided to the growers to strengthen their economic activity. This includes machinzation subsidy implementation under various central schemes, technology missions and initiatives and a sounder, accessible system and line of credit. "It was the Omar Abdullah led government that alloted more than 600 shops to fruit growers and sellers at premium fruit mandis and selling platforms while established new fruit markets and mandis across the State", the NC Spokesman said.
“When Mehbooba Mufti speaks of the Market Intervention Scheme – she very dutifully forgets to tell us how the then Horticulture Minister and a senior PDP leader raised the procurement prices of C-grade apples extremely disproportionately to suit the business interests of another senior PDP leader. If that is PDP’s ideas of ‘market intervention’ one can only commiserate with the stakeholders in the fruit industry for the injustices they suffered during the PDP tenure”, the NC Spokesman said.The NC Spokesman said that it was the Omar Abdullah led National Conference-Congress Government that took initiatives to eradicate the glut created in the terminal markets by bulk supply of fruit from the Valley by facilitating the establishment of state-of-the-art Controlled Atmosphere Stores (CAS) in the Valley. “While private players have established and are in the process of establishing more Controlled Atmosphere Stores (CAS), the government has also initiated concrete measures to explore opportunities to invest directly in the Post-harvesting and CAS fields to benefit the fruit-growers. What stopped PDP to take one small step in this direction during their tenure?”, the NC Spokesman asked Mehbooba Mufti to clarify. (KNS)