To ensure better remunerative prices of milk to the dairy farmers and of vegetables & fruits to the its growers, the Punjab Chief Minister Mr. Parkash Singh Badal asked the departments of Animal Husbandry & Dairy Development and Horticulture to set up state-of-the-art clusters of indigenous (desi) cows and vegetables & fruits in accordance with the prevailing climatic conditions in the state. This decision was taken by Mr. Badal while reviewing the recommendations of the task force on Agriculture here at his residence on Monday evening. He asked the departments of Animal Husbandry & Dairy Development to initiate joint efforts to develop indigenous (desi) breeds of cows viz Sahiwal, Rathi, Tharparkar and Red Sindhi. Mr. Badal asked these departments to make concerted efforts for setting up of clusters of desi cows through Cooperative Milk Societies of indigenous cow breeders and a pilot project would be launched shortly from Fazilka and Abohar and subsequently these clusters would be replicated in other parts of the state depending up on its success. With this initiative the dairy farmers would not only be provided with affordable milk marketing structure by the cooperative sector but the Animal Husbandry department would also provide quality semen of indigenous breeds to these farmers. It was apprised in the meeting that this step was primarily taken to preserve, conserve and promote our own desi cow breeds, which were capable of producing quality milk and prone to the climatic conditions in the state. Moreover, these breeds give more lactation as compared to exotic breeds and their feed conversion ratio was also far more than the exotic animals. Apart from this, the quality of desi cow milk was very high as it was more nutritious and fetched higher price to the dairy farmers as several such milk producers were already selling the milk of indigenous cows at a cost of Rs.60-65 per kg and Desi Ghee at nearly Rs.700-750 per kg. Pure desi cow milk and Ghee would be soon launched in the market by state’s premium milk marketing agency ‘Verka’. With this initiative the consumers would get the whole some good quality milk and producers too would get an organized milk market with assured price support. The Chief Minister desired that these dairy farmers should be provided premium milk prices to motivate them to adopt these breeds more vigorously to ensure faster growth of dairy sector as an alternative to the conventional farming. Likewise, the Chief Minister also gave nod to set up vegetable & fruits clusters in seven districts of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Sangrur (Malerkotla), Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib with an objective to promote the concept of green house cultivation of vegetables to ensure bulk sale of vegetables at competitive prices to the consumers in their vicinity. This initiative would also enhance the bargaining power of the vegetable producers to fetch more prices of their produce. It was also informed it the meeting that the state Horticulture Department had already inked an MoU with Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) that these vegetable producers would be facilitated to get their produce exported in the international market besides providing an access to them for assured distant domestic marketing. Meanwhile, the Chairman Punjab State Farmers’ Commission urged the Chief Minister to sanction dedicated staff to the Horticulture department for this purpose. He also pleaded to rope in the services of top class experts having proven track of experience and expertise in the field of vegetables and fruits cultivation to ensure its quality production as per the international standards. The Chief Minister also emphasized the need for installing solar supported drip irrigation system for fruits, vegetables and other crops. Since the area under pea cultivation was gradually increasing, Mr. Badal also underscored the need for mechanization of harvesting and post-harvest operations. Responding to this issue, the Director Horticulture told him that a hi-tech pea harvester had been recently imported from Holland with the facility of de-podding with the support of National Horticulture Mission to extend this facility to the pea growers across the state on rent hire basis through Punjab Agro. The Chief Minister also approved to allot 14 Kanals of land in Verka (Amritsar) to the Horticulture department for establishing ‘pear estate’ on the pattern of already existing ‘Citrus (kinnow), Lichi and Guava estates’ in Abohar & Hoshiarpur, Sujanpur (Pathankot) and Patiala respectively. Taking part in the deliberations, ACS Development informed the Chief Minister that Horticulture department have already sent a proposal to the Government of India to establish Centre of Excellence for floriculture at Doraha in Ludhiana district to promote cultivation of flowers amongst the farmers which was likely to be cleared soon. Another Centre of excellence for vegetables would be soon set up at Bir Chrik in Moga district on the pattern of Kartarpur Centre. Strawberry cultivation- another remunerative venture was gradually picking up in the state and the Government of India have already approved a tissue culture laboratory to be set up in Dohar in Jalandhar under the National Horticulture Mission. Efforts were afoot to further promote bee keeping in the state and 17 varieties of shrubs and plants for honey bee flora were being planted over forest’s land in nearly 100 km stretch along with Rajasthan Feeder Canal. Mr. Badal also directed the ACS (Development) to tie-up with the Punjab Agro Juices Ltd to ensure that the juice mills at Abohar and Hoshiarpur should be made operational fromJanuary 20 onwards for extracting juice from the Kinnows to avert the glut of harvested small sized Kinnows for value addition through purchasing directly from the Kinnow growers. This would also ensure better price in the market for the bigger size Kinnow to the farmers besides enhancing its marketability. Prominent amongst other who attended the meeting included Agriculture Minister Jathedar Tota Singh, Chairman Punjab State Farmers’ Commission Dr. GS Kalkat, Additional Chief Secretary (Development) Mr. Suresh Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary Animal Husbandry Mr. Mandeep Singh Sandhu, Advisor Animal Husbandry Dr. PK Uppal, Special Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Mr. Gaggandip Singh Brar, Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Balwinder Singh Sidhu, Director Animal Husbandry Dr. HS Sandha, Director Dairy Development Dr. Inderjit Singh, Director Horticulture Dr. Gurkanwal Singh and Farm Mechanization Expert & ex-Chairman-cum-Managing Director of the erstwhile Punjab Tractors Ltd. Mr. Chander Mohan.