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Friday, March 11, 2011

Horticulture in Meghalaya - A New Development Paradigm

                                                                                                        - Canning S Shabong *
Meghalaya offers an excellent scope for growing of different types of horticultural crops including Fruits, Vegetables, Spices, Plantation crops, Medicinal and Aromatic plants of high economic value. A wide range of tropical, sub- tropical and temperate fruits such as Mandarin Orange, Pineapple, Banana, Lemon, Guava, Pear, Plum etc. are grown all over the State. A large variety of fruits & vegetables, both indigenous and exotic are grown across a wide range of agro climatic zones. The higher altitudes provides conducive ecosystem to grow traditional vegetables like Potato and Cole crops during the rainy season. Tuber and Root crops such as Sweet Potato and Tapioca, Spices such as Turmeric, Ginger, Chillies, etc. also grow abundantly. Plantation crops such as Tea, Cashewnut, Coconut, Arecanut and other spice crop like Black Pepper have been performing well and offer good scope for area expansion. In the long run, these crops can change the entire economic situation of the people of the State.
th Five Year Plan period. Setting up of Cold Chains, Refer Vans are in the pipeline and these will complement the expected surge in production volumes of high value crops in the medium term.
A paradigm shift in approach, priority and focus has been the hallmark of this initiative, which functions on a "farmer’s first" principle. Recognising that Horticulture Development cannot take place in isolation, the Department will strive towards a total approach
from the farm gate, right up the value chain till it reaches the consumer’s plate.
Further, 5 Farmer’s market and 4 new horti hubs will be established along with cold chain and transportation facilities. These initiatives will further provide a boost to the sector.

Photo : Strawberry Plantation in East Khasi Hills District 
This paradigm shift initiated by the department has the potential to propel horticulture as one of the lead sectors in the State. These new initiatives will not suffice if farmers, entrepreneurs and private sector do not actively participate in this vision. The existing gap between the departmental officials and the farmers needs to be bridged, while closer interaction and partnership is the order of the day. The Directorate has also taken the lead in equipping the farmers and entrepreneurs with the best technology and marketing skills through the expertise of the Horticulture Training Centre, Pune, which is a premier training agency in the field of high tech horticulture.
The total cropped area in the State during 2008-09 was 3.37 lakh hectares which is 15.03% of the total geographical area of 22.42 lakh Ha. The net cropped was 2.84 lakh hectares, which is 12.66% of the geographical area. The total area under fruit crops during 2008-09 was 27.02 thousand hectares. Among the fruit crops, the maximum area is under Pineapple (10.53 thousand ha) followed by Citrus (9.36 thousand ha) and banana (6.52 thousand ha). The total area under vegetable crops was 11.94 thousand hectares. As far as spices are concerned, Meghalaya is one of the leading States in Ginger production (area of 9.28 thousand Ha. with production of 50.28 thousand MT) and also one of the leading producers of quality Turmeric (area of 1.9 thousand Ha. and production of 10.04 thousand MT) of a variety known as Lakadong, which has about 7% curcumin content. Arecanut and Cashewnut are leading plantation crops followed by Tea. The total area under plantation crops is 26.86 thousand hectares.
The State’s foray into high value low volume crops, of which Strawberry is the prominent and successful introduction, has changed the economic landscape of the strawberry growers of Ri-Bhoi district. Other crops like like Rose, Liliums, Anthuriums, Carnations, Birds of paradise are also performing extremely well. High value vegetables like Brocoli and colored Capsicum have been introduced and marketed successfully.
Today, the State has successfully set up Horticulture Hubs in all the seven (7) districts of the State with specialisation in flowers and high value vegetables. Each horti hubs will in turn be served by spokes comprising collection centres and crop clusters of surrounding villages within a radius of 10 Km.
The State is organic by tradition and the Directorate has taken steps to introduce organic certification on select horticultural crops. Initially, the organic products can cater to the existing demand in the metro cities, gradually building scale to tap the export markets in the immediate future. The process of organic certification for Tea, Pineapple, Cashewnut, Ginger, Turmeric and Vegetables have been intiated. Organic manures like vermicompost and bio-fertilizers like Rhizobium and Azolla are also being promoted in farmer’s field.
Use of Green house technology, poly-houses, drip and micro irrigation system, water harvesting structures, fertigation, soilless culture are being popularised in order to minimise risk and help farmers overcome the vagaries of nature as well as to standardise quality of produce and reduce economic losses.
Post harvest management, value addition, processing and marketing are the other priority areas that the Department is giving renewed thrust during the 11 Five Year plan period.

( The writer is working as Agriculture Development Officer in the Directorate of Agriculture, Meghalaya and can be contacted at csshabong@gmail.com)

2 comments:

  1. I would like to see that some of those hills and the river sides be covered with trees. Towards a collective change..Keep it up

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