Shimla: Production of off-season vegetables in Himachal Pradesh — whose economy is largely dependant on agriculture and horticulture is coming up in a big way with the annual output crossing 14 lakh tonnes, an official said on Sunday.

The production of off-season vegetables has gone up considerably, ensuring a total annual income of Rs.2,500 crore to the farmers in the sector, a government spokesperson said.

He said a provision of Rs.60 crore has been made in Himachal’s budget in this fiscal for promoting off-season crops, especially vegetables.

To cash in on the high demand and remunerative prices of organic food be it fruits, vegetables or pulses the state is laying emphasis on organic farming in the state.

The official said 26,741 farmers have been registered as practitioners of organic farming till date and 15,548 hectare area has been brought under organic farming.

According to the official, the agriculture department is providing free soil-testing facility to the farmers to improve soil-fertility in the state.

The government has provided four mobile soil-testing labs besides another 11 soil-testing facilities to the farmers.

During the last two years, 202,687 soil health cards have been provided and three mobile soil-testing laboratories were established to provide services in far-flung areas. In this fiscal, the government has fixed a target to provide 100,000 soil health cards.

To provide irrigation facility to the farmers, the government this year launched the Rajiv Gandhi Micro-Irrigation Scheme with an outlay of Rs.154 crore.

Through this project, 8,500 hectares would be brought under drip- or sprinkler-irrigation scheme benefitting 14,000 farmers in four years. Farmers would also get a subsidy of Rs.113 crore during this period.

In most parts of the hill state, due to geographical conditions, water has to be lifted to higher levels for irrigation purpose. The government has announced grant of 50 percent subsidy for construction of lift irrigation schemes and installation of borewells by individuals or groups of farmers.

Himachal Pradesh annually earns Rs.2,500 crore from the cultivation of vegetables, while horticulture generates more than Rs.3,200 crore annually.

The cultivation of exotic vegetables and flowers in poly-houses and setting up of controlled atmosphere chains is expected to add to earnings for growers. 

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