Shimla: In two years having failed to import any improved variety of fruit tree plants, which includes apples, the horticulture department has zeroed down on American nurseries for again importing high yielding plants for improving productivity by rejuvenating old orchards.
Horticulture minister Narinder Bragta says â€œDrawing upon past experience as well the results obtained from planters who had taken to supplementing local planting material with imported ones, the government intends to import all those varieties that are successful in the Himalayan temperate zone.â€
â€œA decision has been taken to import improved varieties from American nurseries, he said.
Though the state had a record apple production of about 4.75 crore boxes (8.06 lakh tons) in 2010-11 but yields measured against global standards are very low.
Head of horticulture department Gurdev Singh estimates the 2011-12 apple production to drop to about 2.5 crore boxes (4.46 lakh tons).
Gurdev says â€œplanting material has been imported on three previous occasions, mainly to introduce newer varieties and improve yields.â€
Battling climate change, orchards owners, at the mercy of changing weather patterns being noticed which include lesser snowfall, shorter duration winters, rising summer temperatures and heavy unseasonal rains are looking out for more adaptable varieties to retain apples as the mainstay cash crop in the hilly regions.
Owner of a large apple orchard Sanjay Bhalaik says, â€œfor the last two years, improved plant varieties are in short supply even though a Rs 85 crore rejuvenation program of old orchards has been announced by the government.â€
â€œWe have the funds,â€ says Gurdev, â€œbut in the last two year no one took up our offer for importing better quality plant stock.â€
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its 2011 report pointed out that director horticulture had submitted a proposal in September 2007 for importing 68,050 plants of different varieties from Van Well Nursery, USA. In January, 2008, Rs 5 Crore for the import order.
Against the supply order, by March only 39,100 plants at a cost of Rs 2.11 crore were received and no action was taken to get supply of the remaining plants. It was only at the instance of auditors that the balance Rs 2.79 crore was deposited back in the government treasury after in 2010.
To make up for the lapses, processing the import order is being speeded up so as to timely book available fruit plants in the American nurseries.