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The state-run Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) in Himachal Pradesh has procured 4,000 metric tonnes of peas valued at Rs 9.20 crore in Solan district amid the lockdown due to coronavirus scare, government officials said on Thursday.
The district has earned a name in the production of off-season vegetables like capsicum, green peas, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, potato and cucumber that find markets in neighbouring Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, and even New Delhi.
Since the imposition of the curfew in the state on March 24 to contain the virus, the state has taken initiatives to enable the farmers across Himachal to reach markets and grow preferred crops, a government spokesperson told IANS.
He said in Solan district, all 22 agricultural sale centres have been made operational on priority.
For this, the Agriculture Department provided mobile numbers to 15 officers posted in the district so as to educate the farmers.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur took special interest to overcome the problems and concerns of the farmers.
As per his directions, the Agriculture Department prepared an action plan for crop harvesting in the coming Rabi season and farmers were educated through subject-matter specialists and agricultural extension officers.
Such initiatives not only helped the farmers in bringing their produce like peas, cabbage, tomatoes, capsicum etc to the market yards but also ensured that the APMC purchased off-season vegetables and cash crops from the fields itself.
According to the spokesperson, from March 24 to May 6, the APMC in Solan purchased 4,000 metric tonnes of peas worth Rs 9.20 crore.
It also purchased peas from Sirmaur and Shimla districts and also from Karsog in Mandi district.
During this period, the Agriculture Department also ensured harvesting of wheat crop grown on 15,180 hectares in Solan.
The farmers were educated about following the social distancing rules. Face masks and hand sanitizers were also provided to farmers engaged in harvesting and other activities.
Many farmers of Baniya Devi village in Bakhalag gram panchayat in Arki subdivision said their produce could reach markets only because of timely support by the state and the Solan administration. They also helped them in getting remunerative prices for their produce.
Vegetable production is generating revenue of Rs 3,500-4,000 crore annually and has emerged as an alternate economic activity in the horticulture sector in Himachal.
The returns on off-season vegetable cultivation are very high compared with traditional food crops.
As per the government estimates, off-season vegetables give a net return ranging from Rs 60,000 to Rs 2 lakh per hectare whereas the traditional crops fetch anything between Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000 per hectare.
The off-season vegetable production in the state in 2016-17 reached 16,53,506 tonnes.
Due to favourable ago-climatic conditions, the state has already earned a name in the production of off-season vegetables.
Between mid-June and September, there is no supply of vegetables to the markets in neighbouring states except for from Himachal Pradesh.