GANGTOK, 28 Nov: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling today shared details of an 8-point proposal with the Union Minister for Agriculture for the development of agriculture, horticulture and floriculture in Sikkim and for the upliftment of the farming community here. The proposals range from establishment of a College of Horticulture to an Institute of Food Technology in Sikkim and also seeks establishment of a cold chain system, integrated development of orchid, rejuvenation of large cardamom etc. Union Minister Sharad Pawar has assured to take up these proposal into serious consideration and invited the Sikkim Government to submit more detailed proposals.
This discussion featured in the inaugural session of the Conference of Agriculture & Horticulture Ministers of North Eastern States organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India and Department of Agriculture & Horticulture, Government of Sikkim was held at Chintan Bhawan today.
The conference was chaired by Union Minister for Agriculture and Food Processing Industries, Sharad Pawar as chief guest, and was also attended by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling; Speaker KT Gyaltsen; Minister for Agriculture, DN Thakarpa; Chairman Welfare Commission, BB Gooroong and Chief Secretary R Ongmu.
In his address, the Union Minister stated that he was extremely happy to be here for this conference and added that he had last visited Sikkim around 20 years back when he was in the Defence Ministry.
“The North East Region [NER] holds tremendous potential in the field of agriculture, horticulture and floriculture and around four per cent of the total rice of the country comes from Assam”, he said.
The Food Security Mission on rice for the North Eastern States was started from 2012-13 by the central government, he informed further adding that the Rashtriya Krishi Vigyan Yojana [RKVY] funds have been increased for the NER and this year Rs. 850 crore has been sanctioned for NER. The central government spent around Rs. 63 crore on importing edible oil from outside the country, he stated and added that NER is better suited for cultivation of edible oil and thus urged the NE states to take up this cultivation.
The climate of the NER is suitable for the cultivation of horticulture crops and in the past few years there has been an increase in the production of horticulture crops from the NER, he said and added that even floricultural crops such as orchids, thrive better in the NER. Citing the example of Sikkim’s orchids, he stated that the production of cut flowers can be taken up on commercial basis. NER has grown at the rate of around 4% in the last decade, he informed.
“The main bottleneck for these areas is post production, marketing and above all the problem of transportation of the products. Marketing and food processing need to be focused upon in these areas”, he stated.
Speaking on the proposals put forth by the Chief Minister earlier, he stated that the central government will be establishing a central college of agriculture in Sikkim, a horticulture college and will set up a State Organic Mission at ICAR in Gangtok. The mega food park and cold chain will be sanctioned after the state government puts the proposal to the central government, he added.
He hoped that the conference would be a fruitful one and focus on the critical issues regarding agriculture and horticulture.
Earlier, in his keynote address, the Chief Minister Pawan Chamling extended greetings and warm welcome to the Union Minister and thanked him for his visit and for his continuous support in overcoming some specific challenges faced in the agriculture and horticulture sector by the North Eastern Region and Sikkim.
The CM informed about the initiatives of the Government of Sikkim in the field of agriculture to attain higher level of growth. He stated that the State provided an enabling environment for sustainable growth in these sectors, and thus a variety of programmes were launched in adequate measure to promote these sectors. The unstinted support of the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, he said, played a critical role in the transformation of these sectors giving it a much needed boost. “It is with generous support from the Central Ministry that we have accomplished many success stories in the field of off-season vegetables, floriculture, protected cultivation, fruits and spices, cereals and pulses,” he said.
The Chief Minister also threw light on the organic policy adopted by the State by launching Sikkim Organic Mission to make Sikkim a fully Organic State by 2015. He informed that environmental security, product branding, health safety and enhancement in farm returns were some of the important objectives of this challenging decision, now converted into a flagship programme.
Further, the Chief Minister said that the State has been giving enough impetus to the cultivation of Cymbidium Orchid, and informed that the first mother plant of Cymbidium hybrid, which has become a multi-billion dollar industry today, was taken from Sikkim. For this, Chief Minister’s Special Orchid Development Programme in 18 constituencies was launched which had benefited the farmers and the educated youths, informed Chamling. He further elaborated that the programme needed further expansion and consolidation with import of the first release hybrid mother plants which in the coming years would establish Sikkim as a major grower in the national and international sphere. He informed that the State had formulated an ambitious plan for an Integrated Development of Orchid which, in the long run, could become a model for others.
The Chief Minister further informed that the State government had introduced the scheme of providing minimum support price in vegetables, transport subsidy for vegetables upto Siliguri and for flowers to any destination within the country, as part of the convergence initiatives. In order to add special thrust on the development of marginalized farmers of the State, he stated that the government identified dry, backward and remote areas and special programmes were devised to uplift the farmers in these villages by providing suitable incentives and technology support.
The Chief Minister further stated that certain common areas of concern to the North Eastern States would need the intervention of the Union Minister especially in terms of providing special package to tackle food security issues and sustainability of mountain farming system. “Based on inherent strengths of each State, we need to form a large network of cold chain system, bring about farm mechanization, more liberal crop insurance policy, protected cultivation, water harvesting and micro irrigation etc”, stated Mr. Chamling.
The Chief Minister laid down eight proposals before the Union Minister, for the development of agriculture, horticulture and floriculture crops, and the upliftment of the farming community in the State.
Establishment of Horticulture College that would provide large institutional support with promotion of research studies to augment and diversify the activities under this sector.
Sikkim Institute of Food Technology, for the creation of a facility for post-harvest technology and value addition. The facility may be called Sikkim Institute of Food Technology [SIFT] – a Centre of Excellence, with facilities including Physical Grading Centre, Food Processing Laboratory, Food Micro-biology Laboratory, Food Analysis Laboratory, Quality Control and Assurance Laboratory, Nano-technology Application Laboratory, Packaging Research Facility, Market Research Centre, Business and Farmers’ Assistance Centre etc. Besides developing a wide range of premium quality processed food products, it will also be the Centre of frontier research in this niche area being unique in the entire North East region and also generate employment for the highly qualified young professional of Sikkim. The Institute could be an independent entity or a Centre of Excellence within the proposed College of Horticulture.
Cold Chain System: To aid the farmers to market their products better, the need to establish cold chain facilities right from the farm to the terminal market was felt. For this purpose, 22 number of multi-facility cold storage at primary collection centers and four district level processing units and adequate number of refrigeration plants have been proposed for which a sum of Rs.32.00 crore has been estimated.
Re-designation of ICAR to NRC Organic Farming: As Sikkim is the first State to go organic in totality, the Government has submitted proposal to the Central Ministry with request to re-designate the present ICAR Centre at Tadong as National Research Centre in Organic Farming. The Chief Minister also requested the Union Minister to spare the surplus land available with ICAR at Tadong, Gangtok for building of range of infrastructural facilities for the farmers.
Integrated Development of Orchid: A sum of Rs. 60.00 crore has been estimated spread over a period of four years to achieve the objective which is required to provide tissue culture planting material to farmers, construction of green houses, training and input support and host of other related facilities.
Rejuvenation of Large Cardamom: A huge re-plantation and rejuvenation programme is required to retrieve the lost glory of Sikkim as the biggest producer of Large Cardamom which is mostly exported to other countries. It is estimated that we would require a sum of Rs.25.00 crore spread over a period of 5 years to take up massive re-plantation and rejuvenation work of Large Cardamom.
Special Package for Organic Farming: Since Sikkim will become the first fully organic State in the country; the Government of India is requested to provide a special package of Rs. 100 crore to boost the ongoing programme.
Mega Food Park: The Central Ministry has been pleased to sanction establishment of one Mega Food Park for the State of Sikkim. However, due to scarcity of land certain existing guidelines may be relaxed for State like Sikkim. The 50 acres of land required may be made 30 acres due to the land terrain which the State Government will arrange as per guidelines of the Ministry. The State Government has also represented to the Union Minister for construction of one Abattoir each in South and North Sikkim.
In his concluding note, the Chief Minister expressed the need to strike a fine balance between nature and application of science and technology into the farmland, which could be accomplished by making rational use of available scientific tools and mechanism to undertake off-seasonal cultivation and make the agricultural activities round-the-year engagement. Adoption of right methods and strategy would have the potential to develop the North Eastern region into an organic zone, floriculture zone, horticulture zone and apiculture zone etc.