The Jammu and Kashmir government has approved a project worth Rs 146 crore to promote niche crops as unique heritage of the Union Territory, which will be implemented in the next five years, officials said on Sunday.
"The project aims at diversifying and expanding the area of niche crops over an area of 11,100 hectare, thus ensuring livelihood security for 1,11,000 targeted beneficiaries with a revenue realisation of Rs 2,238 crore," Additional Chief Secretary (ACS), Agriculture Production Department (APD), Atal Dulloo said.
He said the initiative will focus on increasing production, improving livelihoods and enhancing market accessibility.
"This will be achieved through establishment of nurseries and seed villages, infrastructure development, and collaboration with various partners and stakeholders," he added.
An official spokesman said Jammu and Kashmir is home to a diverse range of niche crops, including saffron, kalazeera, kashmiri lal mirch, peanut, anardhana, bhaderwah rajmash, hill garlic, mushkbudhji (aromatic rice), red rice and shallot (pran).
These crops are grown on 32,000 hectares, with a total annual production of 24,000 metric tonnes, making a substantial contribution of Rs 945 crore to the Union Territory's GDP, the spokesman said.
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The main components of the project included establishment of 5,226 nurseries or seed villages, which will generate 7,750 job opportunities.
Additionally, the project will take up creation of one mini spice park, two modern rice mills, and eleven grading and processing units in target clusters, which will be linked with available NABL laboratories and e-trading centres of UT, the spokesman said.
This will facilitate quality promotion and value addition, leading to profitable accessibility to the market, he added.
"To promote these niche crops at the export level, the project shall also undertake tagging of identified niche crops, for which descriptors will be developed for their uniqueness," the spokesman said.
Likewise, the project will ensure human resource development for capacity building and employment generation.
Promotion of niche crops is one of the 29 projects, which were approved by the Jammu and Kashmir administration after being recommended by the UT level apex committee for holistic development of agriculture and allied sectors in J&K.
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