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Mission Orange aims to pack a fruit punch

Jorhat, Dec. 24: The Tinsukia district administration has launched an ambitious project, “Mission Orange”, to increase cultivation of the citrus fruit manifold in the next five years with an aim to bring economic prosperity to the local people and thereby tackle the growth of Left-wing extremism.

According to the National Horticulture Board figures, Tinsukia district has the highest productivity of orange (per hectare yield), with 18.5 metric tonnes per hectare in 2011-2012, much above the national average of seven tonnes per hectare and state average of 11 tonnes per hectare.

Traditionally, the Khasi mandarin (Citrus reticulate blanco) variety of it has been grown predominantly in many areas of the district, mostly by the Moran and Muttock communities and the fruit is popular across the region.

Tinsukia deputy commissioner S.S. Meenakshi Sundaram told The Telegraph today that the project has been initiated taking into account the fact that the district has a potential to make it big in orange production as already the crop yield (per hectare) is highest in the country.

He said as the agro-climatic conditions of the district were highly favourable for orange cultivation, the district is the largest orange producer of the state and second in the state in terms of areas under cultivation.

“We have made a plan for five years for intervention in the first phase on public-private partnership model involving many stakeholders, including many government departments and agencies to provide necessary support,” the deputy commissioner said.

He said the target set in the plan was to achieve orange production of 58,800 metric tonnes by 2017-2018 from 23,200 metric tonnes in 2011-2012 and to raise the productivity (per hectare yield) to 20 metric tonnes from 18.5 metric tonnes. Similarly, the increase in the area of production of oranges is expected to be 2,940 hectares from the present 1,450 hectares.

He said the groundwork for the mission was being carried on since the last seven months and it was officially launched in the first week of this month, but on Saturday the blueprint of the mission was released by Assam Agricultural University vice-chancellor K.M. Bujarbaruah at a function organised at Tinsukia.

Sundaram said the mission was also expected to check the growth of Left-wing extremism in the district, as it will provide self-employment avenues and prevent youths from being exploited by insurgent elements like the Maoists.

Bujarbaruah said the district had the potential of becoming the highest producer of oranges and enabling Assam to become the highest producer of citrus fruits if the plan was sincerely implemented.

Many schemes available under various departments like agriculture, soil conservation, district rural development agency, zila parishad, Krishi Vigyan Kendra and Citrus Research Station, Tinsukia (both under the Assam Agricultural University), have been converged. The deputy commissioner said the district administration would be the nodal agency of the plan, with the additional deputy commissioner (agricultural) monitoring on a regular basis. The Assam Agricultural University will provide technical support to the plan.

Sundaram said eight orange-growing areas in the district have been identified for the mission where block-level growers’ committees have been constituted, from which 12 federations have been formed, which will tie up with the district industry department for marketing.

Moreover, under the Centre’s and state government’s food processing schemes, orange pulp processing units will be set up in the district by private entrepreneurs, who will get subsidy and incentives. With neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh too producing oranges, there will be supply of the fruit from the adjoining state to these proposed units.

Sundaram said many small tea growers, who have already market connections, have shown interest to grow oranges in their newly set up plantations as orange trees act as shade trees, which the tea bushes need for producing quality leaves.


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