Shimla: Elaborate and comprehensive arrangements must be made for transportation of apple produces so that orchardists do not face any inconvenience for taking their produce to the markets in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. This was stated by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur while presiding over a meeting here today convened to review the preparedness regarding harvesting of Apple crop during the current season.The Chief Minister said that to facilitate the fruit growers, HPMC has empanelled 26 firms for the supply of packaging material viz. cartons, separators, trays and other allied items of different categories. About 1.20 crore cartons are ready with these firms for supply to the orchardists, he added.Jai Ram Thakur said that the Horticulture department has tied up marketing arrangements for the growers at Aazadpur Mandi in New Delhi and Gannaur Mandi at Sonipat in Haryana. He said that controlled atmosphere stores have been identified in government and private sectors in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi having a total capacity of about 1.17 lakh metric tonnes. Besides this cold storage facility of 32000 MT is available to facilitate the horticulturists, he added.He directed the Public Works Department to ensure proper maintenance of the roads and other linking roads in the apple growing areas to make it sure that flow of vehicular traffic was smooth. He said that law and order situation must be ensured during the apple season in the areas and asked that control room at various locations must be set up to ascertain the smooth movement of trucks, to and fro.The Chief Minister said that the department must also hold meeting with the contractors who should further contact the labourers who had left the State to bring them back. He said that adequate arrangement must be made to facilitate them so that there was no scarcity of labourers. He said that the farmers must be motivated to avoid use of colour spray so as to slow down to season. He said that this would not only ensure good price but also help in solving the labour problem.He said that alternative arrangement of labourers must be made. He said that if required the State Government could even consider sending buses up to even Dehradun and other places to bring Nepali labourers to the State. He said that matter should also be taken with the District Administration of bordering districts of Nepal for bring labour to the State. He said that steps must be taken in organised to ensure that the horticulturists do not suffer due to want of labour.
Jai Ram Thakur said that the farmers of the state would get remunerative price of their produce as this year the import of apple from other countries would not be possible this year due to COVID-19 crisis. He said that only thing required was foolproof arrangements for transportation of apple to the market. He said that mechanism must be developed to bring labour from different parts of the State to the apple growing areas. This would not only reduce the over dependency of growers on Nepali labour, but also facilitate the horticulturists, he added. He said that APMC will facilitate the movement of agricultural market functionaries and concerned District Magistrates would issue them transit passes. He said that APMC should ensure installations of CCTV cameras at all Mandis as well as individual yards.Horticulture Minister Mahender Singh Thakur said that horticulture industry accounts for about Rs 5000 crore per annum. He said that about 5.83 lakh MT Apple production was expected during the current Apple season. He said that the State Government has increased the support price of the apple under the Market Intervention Scheme from Rs 8 to Rs 8.50 per kg. The State Government has also launched KUSHY Scheme for providing incentives for construction of Anti Hail Net Structure in the State. Chief Whip Narender Bragta thanked the Chief Minister for envisaging keen interest in ensuring that the horticulturists do not face problem in marketing of their produce. He also urged the Chief Minister for adequate arrangement for transportation of produce and also for ensuring adequate arrangement for labour. He said that efforts must be made to provide alternative labour from Sirmaur, Chamba districts etc. He also felt the need to deploy adequate police force in market yards to maintain social distancing. Chairman HIMFED Ganesh Dutt said that Jawans of Home Guards should be deployed in collection and procurement centres established by the Government for procurement of Apple.Director Horticulture Dr. M.M. Sharma, made a detailed presentation on the occasion regarding preparation of the department to properly market Apple in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, Agriculture Minister Dr. Ramlal Markanda, Transport Minister Govind Thakur, Chief Secretary Anil Khachi, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister J.C. Sharma, Principal Secretary Onkar Sharma, Principal Secretary K.K. Pant, Secretary Horticulture Amitabh Awasthi, MD HPMC Debasweta Banik, Special Secretary Agriculture Rakesh Kanwar, Director Information and Public Relations Harbans Singh Brascon and other officers attended the meeting.