Following Punjab model, SBI plans to re-energise Apple orchards in Himachal
WEATHER gods may have played havoc with the apple growers in Himachal pradesh, but with banks stepping in at the right time, things may change in the near future. Three area specific schemes launched by State Bank of India during the on going apple harvesting season in Himachal has brought smiles to the Himachal orchardists. The bank has earmarked Rs 40 crore for one year under the schemes. Depending on the response, it may extend it further. Its felt that in addition to the credit need for meeting cultivation cost for apple, there is need to have an integrated infrastructure support as a package for producing quality apple. It will provide a consistent base to raise quality produce and enhance productivity. SBI Agri-DGM Mr L S Srivastava says, “This, ultimately, will rejuvenate the old orchards of the state, leading to higher production of quality fruits. Repayment of loans taken for replacement of old orchards is convenient to the farmers without any extra burden onthem during the replacement period “. Apple growers have been facing bad times for the last few days. D ue to floods, apple growers were unable to transport over 70,000-1 lakh boxes of apple from places like rampur Bushar. A few months back a consortium of textile mills and banks in Punjab together to improve the yield and quality of cotton here. Groups like Vardhman, Trident, Nahar et along with banks like Canara Bank, SBI, State Bank of Patiala and Punjab National Bank have adopted almost 50 villages so far in the current year itself. Interestingly, in 2005-06 this consortium acquired 19,000 acres of land in 25 villages of Punjab and the yield was 873 kg per hectare in the acquired villages. Whereas cotton yield in rest of Punjab was 600 kg per hectare in the same period. By 2009-10 it is focusing to enhance the cotton production to 1,000 kg per hectare. In case of the present schemes launched by the SBI, the first scheme is for infrastructural support to the existing apple orchardists to meet their capital requirements of pump-sets/irrigation systems, sprayers, other orchard equipment, transport vehicle and support systems like water storage tanks, drip system, grading/storage/packing house etc. The second scheme is for rejuvenation of old apple orchards. Under the scheme the old, low producing orchards will be replaced in phased manner with new varieties that can bear quality fruit at an early age. The third scheme is for financing lessee of apple orchards to meet the financial requirements of the farmers who, in addition to their own orchards, take on lease the orchards of the farmers who find it difficult to manage/market their orchards/produce due to their engagements else where.