Shimla, Nov 25 (IANS) The Himachal Pradesh government is partnering with New Zealand in a World Bank-funded project to boost apple production, having already begun to import the rootstock from the island country.
At 57 tonnes per hectare, New Zealand was one of the most productive apple-growing countries in the world, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh observed on Wednesday after meeting a delegation of ‘Pipfruit’, the body representing New Zealand’s growers, packers, and marketers of apples and pears.
Virbhadra Singh discussed with Pipfruit officials the progress of the project, the Memorandum of Understanding for which, he said, would be signed with the New Zealand government early next year.
“The emphasis of the government would on diversification of stone fruits and rejuvenation of old apple orchards in which the knowledge of New Zealand would play an important role,” the chief minister said.
Apple accounted for about 90 percent of total fruit production in Himachal Pradesh and the state government was interested in introducing new varieties to benefit the growers, he said.
State additional chief secretary (horticulture) Tarun Shridhar said the detailed project report for implementing the horticulture development project was almost ready and the state has started importing the rootstock from New Zealand.
The priority would be on water management for irrigation that was one of the most important aspects for modern horticulture, Shridhar added.
Himachal Pradesh’s fruit economy generates about Rs.3,500 crore ($55 million) per year. Apples are mostly grown in Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba districts.