Insurance scheme for apple growers in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla, Nov 23 ( The Himachal Pradesh government has launched an insurance scheme for apple growers in the state in view of the adverse weather conditions that hit production this year.

The pilot insurance scheme was launched in Shimla and Kullu districts Sunday to safeguard the Rs.1,500-crore apple industry, a major revenue earner for this hill state, said Horticulture Director Gurdev Singh.

“This weather-based insurance scheme has been introduced in Theog, Jubbal, Narkanda, Rohru and Chirgaon in Shimla and Ani in Kullu. It will be extended to other districts later,” Singh told Inditop.

About 81 percent of the total cultivated area in the state is rain-fed. This year, apple production fell due to deficient snow last winter and the unusual rise in temperatures this summer.

According to the horticulture department, the total production was around 16 million crates of 25 kg each this season, considerably less than last year’s 26 million crates.

The maximum output — of 28.6 million crates — was recorded in 2006-07.

The Agriculture Insurance Co of India, incorporated in 2002, will insure the crop, Singh said, adding that mango growers in Kangra district would also be covered.

“Fifty percent of the total premium of the insurance would be borne by the cultivator and rest by the central and state governments in equal proportion,” he said.

Farmers who have been sanctioned credit from a financial institution on or before Dec 5 in areas covered by the scheme will have to get themselves registered.

However, it is optional for farmers to get their credit limit fixed by a financial institution.

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who last week visited Israel to study its agriculture practices such as drip and sprinkle irrigation, said technologies developed in that country’s farm sector could be replicated in Himachal Pradesh.

“The per hectare apple production in Israel is 50 tonnes, whereas in Himachal Pradesh it is just five to seven tonnes. There is a vast scope to increase production and improve quality,” Dhumal told IANS.

He said he was also keen to develop a cold chain network and marketing of fruits on the pattern of Israel.

Himachal Pradesh is one of India’s major apple-producing regions, with more than 90 percent of the produce going to the domestic market.

Apple cultivation increased to 94,726 hectares in 2007-08 from 400 hectares in 1960-61.

The economy of the state is highly dependent on horticulture, besides hydroelectric power and tourism, with the annual fruit industry being worth about Rs.2,000 crore.

Besides apple, other fruits like pears, peaches, cherries, apricots, kiwi, strawberry, olive, almonds, mangoes and plums are the major commercial crops of the state.