Jammu, Feb 3: The Jammu and Kashmir government, achieving yet another milestone, has announced a pioneering project envisaging total transformation in the landscape of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) cultivation in the Union Territory. With a budget of Rs 62 crore, this five year project aims at to cultivate MAPs on 5000 kanal of land spread across 28 clusters, creating over 3000 jobs and 28 enterprises. The MAP sector is estimated to contribute about Rs 75 crore every year after 5 years which is expected to rise to over Rs 783 crore by the year 2037. This ambitious project marks a significant transition from traditional, wild extraction based practices to a more sustainable, modern approach to MAP cultivation, conservation and entrepreneurship. The mission of this project is to achieve commercial production of MAPs outside the forests, promote organic farming, develop local and international markets besides boosting advance scientific knowledge through insightful research. The initiative also aims to promote cultivation and conservation of MAPs, promote organic farming and standardization, provide special facilities for primary processing, preserve intellectual property rights, educate cultivators on the best practices and undertake research to develop new herbal formulations and drugs. “There are a number of MAPs that are unique to our agro-climate and offer immense potential for employment and exports. The demand for herbal drugs and cosmetics is growing both domestically and internationally while MAPs extracted from forests put pressure on biodiversity besides pushing many plant species on the verge of extinction” said Atal Dulloo, Additional Chief Secretary APD. “J&K has 129 hectare of cultivatable wasteland, of which, only 2 per cent shall be used for MAP cultivation. Additionally, farmers who adopt MAP cultivation can expect to see a 30-40 per cent increase in their agricultural income”, he added. “Promotion of commercial cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants” is one among the 29 projects, which were approved by the Jammu and Kashmir administration after being recommended by the UT Level Apex Committee for holistic development of Agriculture and allied sectors in J&K. The prestigious committee is being headed by Dr Mangala Rai, Former DG ICAR and has other luminaries in the field of Agriculture, Planning, Statistics & Administration like Ashok Dalwai, CEO NRAA, Dr. P. K Joshi, Secretary, NAAS, Dr. Prabhat Kumar, Horticulture Commissioner MOA & FW, Dr. H. S Gupta, Former Director, IARI, Atal Dulloo, Additional Chief Secretary, APD besides the Vice Chancellors of twin Agriculture Universities of the UT. Upon identification of potential areas for MAP cultivation, the project shall undertake establishment of MAP germ plasm banks. Harvesting and post-harvest management will be facilitated through the formation of farmer cluster groups and the creation of common facilitation centers (CFCs) for primary processing. The branding and marketing aspect of the project will involve product diversification, certification of produce besides branding, labeling and packaging. Besides, Capacity building and training will be provided in good agricultural and harvesting practices, primary processing and marketing as well. Under the research and development component of the project, there shall be establishment of a “Centre of Excellence on Herbal Technology” for focused research and development on bio-prospecting, crop improvement, organic farming and more. The MAP sector involves a wide range of stakeholders including industry, entrepreneurs, farmers, collectors and traditional healers. To implement the interventions, the project will prioritize species-specific zones, form farmer cluster groups, establish model nurseries and demonstration units, provide capacity building programs and link farmer groups with industries for product development and digital marketing. Lastly, this project represents a major step forward towards promotion of medicinal and aromatic plant sector in Jammu and Kashmir besides offering tremendous potential for employment, income generation and sustainable development. With a focus on cultivation, conservation and entrepreneurship, this project promises to bring the MAP sector into the 21st century and secure its place as a key player in the national and international markets for herbal drugs and cosmetics.
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