India is a top producer of many fruits like banana, mango, pomegranate and papaya, yet its contribution in exports is not up to the mark, sometimes owing to poor quality of the produce. Now, in order to produce high-quality and disease-free material for horticulture crops, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced Atmanirbhar Clean Plant Program.
The outlay of the new programme will be Rs. 2,200 crore. The programme will be anchored by the national horticulture board which in turn will set up Clean Plant Centres across the country. These centres will ensure access to disease-free horticulture planting material for the global competitiveness of Indian horticulture sector.
The clean plant programme will aim to enhance the yield of horticulture crops, dissemination and adoption of climate resilient varieties; protect the ecosystem through proactive virus and disease control measures. The centres will work with the stakeholders so that they adopt clean plant seeds and nurseries. The national horticulture board may also tie up with the Asian Development Bank, sources said.
India’s share in global banana production is 27 per cent, but the share in exports is around 1 per cent only.
Many advanced countries like the USA run clean plant programmes to produce high-quality seeds and ensure that plant propagation material is clean and available, protecting their plants from viruses for better yield. India will adopt best practices.
According to officials, in the last 7 years, the area under horticulture has increased from 23.4 million hectares to 27.5 million hectares, while the production has increased from 280.9 million MT to 333.25 million hectares (18.63 per cent), which could translate into better exports.
Apart from the announcement of this scheme, the Finance Minister also announced that an Agriculture Accelerator Fund will be set up to encourage agri-startups by young entrepreneurs in rural areas. “The Fund will aim at bringing innovative and affordable solutions for challenges faced by farmers, and will also bring in modern technologies to transform agricultural practices, increase productivity and profitability,” she added.
As this is the year of millets, the finance minister announced that the Indian Institute of Millet Research, Hyderabad will be supported as the Centre of Excellence for sharing best practices, research and technologies at the international level. She referred to millets as ‘Shree Anna’, the Finance Minister quoted the Prime Minister as saying, “India is at the forefront of popularizing millets, whose consumption furthers nutrition, food security and welfare of farmers.”
She noted that India is the largest producer and second largest exporter of ‘Shree Anna’ in the world and that several types of millets such as jowar, ragi, bajra, kuttu, ramdana, kangni, kutki, kodo, cheena, and sama are grown in the country.
The Finance Minister also said that the agriculture credit target will be increased to Rs. 20 lakh crore with a focus on animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries. A new sub-scheme of PM Matsya Sampada Yojana will also be launched with a targeted investment of Rs. 6,000 crore to further enable activities of fishermen, fish vendors, and micro & small enterprises, improve value chain efficiencies and expand the market, she added.