Fruits and Vegetables, our source of vitamins and nutrients ; Spices, the king ingredient of Indian food which has an eminent position in our culture, extending from North to South; Garlands and flowers beautifying every event and festival makes one of most interesting arms of Agriculture named as “Horticulture”. Krishi Jagran team fetched an opportunity to discuss and cover the various achievements, problems and prospects of this sector with Dr. B N S Murthy, commissioner Horticulture, GOI.
Q. How is the state of horticulture in India?
The Horticulture is diversified to cover 6 subsectors namely vegetables, fruit crops, spices, ornamentals, plantation crops and mushrooms. The horticulture section is doing well in India when compared with others food crops, since it fetches good price because of its nature of seasonality. Though sections like movement of the produce and post harvest practices are few areas where the lion’s share of problems persist. The estimation of the potential profits can be drawn by the fact that a farmer producing wheat of 1 kg gets 10 times higher prices for the same produce in horticulture section. And fruits like banana fetches as much as 30 folds more remuneration. Flowers (seasonal) can draw upto 30-35 times of remuneration. Considering this high potential, the concept of doubling farmers income can work magically with horticultural crops. There is a need of shift from traditional crops and cropping pattern.
Q. How the international quality does differ from the Indian horticultural produce?
The international market, undergoes process of sorting, followed by grading and marketing when the produce is brought out of the farm. The international population is more concerned with the quality of the produce and hence A grade produce is supplied to markets and lower grades produce is used by processing industry. However, in India only 2-5% of produce is used for processing. Due to our lower processing potential, India pushes most of its produce to the market where discrete price levels are set depending on the grade of the produce. The Grades A,B,C etc are set depending upon the weight, size of the produce.
Q. How has the horticulture section performed lately in quantitative and qualitative terms ? Also, frame the statistics comparing it with the overall agriculture sector.
The Indian agricultural land covers area of 140 million hectares out of which, 17% of area is dedicated to horticultural crops that contributes to 30% of total agricultural GDP. India produces approximately 20% of grade A produce which can be hiked to more with better practices. According to the third estimate, we have a production of 299.85 million tonnes which is higher by 4.8% when compared to 283.4 million tonnes of previous year and the land acreage has been increased by 2.6%. For the last 5 years, horticultural produce is surpassing the produce of other agricultural commodities, which stood at 271 million tonnes this time. 25.1 million hectare of horticultural land produced 299.85 million tonnes of produce, which is a good trend.
Q. How can we increase our produce quality and quantity?
For a good produce, We should have a good start. Start in terms of good planting material quality is the most important factor. Other important factors are timely usage of fertilizers etc. are required. Irrigation, which is not available in abundance in the country adds as a huge problem. Percentage of higher grade can be increased by starting off with quality plant material. It generally happens in our Indian set up that quality of grafted material varies due to wrong labeling which sacrifices with the quality matter. The farmers otherwise are well informed and keep experimenting with the best of way out for their problems. Krishi Vikas Kendras (KVKs) also has been helping extensively to disseminate the knowledge among the farming community and hence increases the productivity.
Q. Which fruit/vegetable performs most efficiently in Indian climatic conditions?
Fruits perform better than vegetables on comparing it with other sections of horticulture. India produces abundant Mango, Banana, Papaya , Pomegranate depending on the agro climatic condition. But Pomegranate performs better when compared with the other fruits. With the accreditation of nurseries, quality material is rendered at the farms. Star rating and graded nurseries has been helping the farms.
Q. How much the monsoon affects the produce?
India has witnessed good monsoon since couple of years. Only few districts are affected by draught conditions. But most of the time, horticulture does not depend on annual rainfall but on assured irrigation. We need back up ground water or harvested water for irrigation through out the plant life unlike others food crops, like rice, wheat or pulses.
Q. What has been the state of export in horticulture?
Export in Indian horticulture section has been gaining heights. In the year, 2014-15 the export reached at a worth Rs.28,628 cr. Fruits and vegetables alone accounted for Rs. 7.7 cr export. Flower recorded an export value of Rs. 460 cr. And the majority of exports are seen in cashew and spices. The cashew processing capacity of Indian peninsular region is huge. But due to non availability of raw nuts, the processing industries import raw nuts, crush them and avail profits. Government is also trying hard to increase the cashew production in the country, being focused on Southern states of Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. Cashew is one of the most remunerating crop rendering Rs.180-200 for per kg of nuts.
Q. Being such a technologically advanced country, We have been struggling with post harvest losses. How can we deal with it ?
The condition of cold storage in the country is very pathetic. Dearth of power availability makes the cold storages un-functional. And the harvest faces 20-30% of post harvest losses which is suffered by the farmers. This loss can be compensated by using cold storages. Every other fruit/vegetable type uses different process/method for the protection and preservation of produce. We are falling short of various components of cold storage like packed houses, ripening chambers and cold vans etc. Horticultural produce can be stored from 20 days to 6 months using these advancements. The advancements also face gaps when we talk of storage houses for potato, tomato and onion, which are considered to be magic crops. But provisions and efforts are being taken by the government and in another 2-3 years, proper systems are to be developed for the preservation of these magic crops. For setting up a cold storage of capacity 1 -2 metric tonnes, an investment of Rs. 6-8 cr. is needed.
Q. What kind of focus does the horticulture wing has, for Doubling of farmer’s income?
The first and foremost thing for doubling farmer’s income is to create market for farmers and provide market access and links for growing their business. The three crops : onion, potato and tomato makes or breaks the industry. We should have a calendar of production for the various crops and analyze their condition likewise. Different states have their different capacities and agro-climatic conditions which favour some specific product. Such states should focus on their speciality and good channels should connect the country for the eminent flow in market. Integrated markets should be developed and shift from traditional to modern practices should be adopted. Alternative sources of income along with horticultural crops should be looked into, like Apiculture, where-in the bees also helps in the pollination and also draws extra income for the farmers. The govt. is also promoting Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) scheme to support the various components of horticultural crops. Starting with nursery development, covering sustainable irrigation practices, emphasizing on subsidies for storage structures till market linkages, all the prospects are taken care of, under MIDH.
Dr. B N S Murthy leaves message for the smart farmers that they should not look forward for subsidies but seek good price for their own produce.