Cash crop farming essential for development of horticulture

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Shillong, Jul 15 (UNI) The nascent horticulture sector of the North-eastern region can be developed by bringing about a radical change in the strategy for agriculture which envisions a shift in farming from subsistence to cash-crop farming.

''Since farmers are naturally risk-averse, effecting changes in their cropping patterns will not be easy, unless gains from doing so are clearly demonstrated,'' official sources said here today.

With funds from the Central Government Horticulture Mission, Mizoram, Sikkim and Meghalaya have established Centres of Excellence (CoE) in Horticulture which have started spreading the idea of fruit and vegetable cultivation among farmers successfully.

These CoEs act as an interface between the private buyer of flowers, 'Zopar', and the farmer.

The Centre for Excellence at Shillong looks after the whole gamut of production of flowers - (anthurium), fruit (strawberries) and vegetables (cucumbers).

The North Eastern region was put on the global map of flower exports when the first consignment of the exotic cut flower anthurium from the region was exported to Dubai.

The cultivation of anthurium is taken up by farmers in Mizoram's capital Aizawl and in the East Garo Hills of Meghalaya.

Besides Meghalaya and Mizoram, a number of farmers in Tripura showed interest in floriculture and some of them had already succeeded in it by first starting their business locally within the state.

The first flowers were harvested in September 2003 and export to other states was started by October 2003, only 11 months from the date of planting.

The number of growers increased from a mere 24 in 2002 to more than 200 in 2004.

The first shipment of 1,000 cut flowers from Mizoram and Meghalaya was exported by the Bangalore-based ZOPAR Exports Private Ltd to Al Lokrit, Dubai, one of the biggest wholesalers in West Asia.

The Agricultural Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has provided subsidy for carting the consignment from the farm to the airport for export, besides other general incentives on international freight.

In the coming days, both Mizoram and Meghalaya are likely to export other floriculture products, including roses, leather leaf fern, lilium, bird of paradise, among other varieties which are being cultivated in the North Eastern Region due to favourable climatic, soil and water conditions.

There is excellent scope for export to Japan, West Asia, Singapore and EU countries.

Some farmers were also switching over from producing paddy to strawberries as basic terrace farming was quite conducive to growing this fruit.

UNI PB DPM SG CS1550

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