The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare recently released the Final Estimate of 2018-19 and first Advanced Estimate of 2019-20 of varioushorticultural crops. The report stated that the total horticulture production of 2018-19 was 310.74 MT and the first estimation of 2019-20 is expected to be at 313.3
India is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world after China. In India, about 55–60% of the total population depends on agriculture and allied activities. Horticultural crops constitute a significant portion of the total agricultural produce in India. They cover a wide cultivation area and contribute about 28% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and account for 37% of the total exports of agricultural commodities from India.
Production of horticulture products
According to available data, the production of food grains is surpassed by the production of horticultural products. According to available data, between 2013-14 and 2017-18, horticulture production grew at a compound annualgrowth rate (CAGR) of 2.6% which is double the annualgrowth rate in food grain output. A report titled,“Horticultural Statistics at a Glance 2017” by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India states, “Fruits and vegetables account for nearly 90%of total horticulture production in the country. India isnow the second largest producer of fruits and vegetablesin the world and is the leader in several horticultural crops, namely mango, banana, papaya, cashew-nuts, areca nut, potato and okra.”
When asked if the horticultural sector in India can support the agricultural sector, Dinesh Rawat, Founder, Green Mall, one of the largest garden centres in India, told BE, “At present, the horticulture sector in India is more developed than the agricultural sector. Many advanced technologies and techniques are used in the horticulture sector.”
Inclination towards horticulture and advantages
According to researchers and important players in the sector, Indian farmers prefer vegetables as they are short duration crops and need small patches of land - often less than an acre. Production of vegetables ensure quick returns to farmers in comparison to some pulse varieties or other food grains where almost six months of harvesting period is required. The fact that farmers continue to grow perishables despite recurrent price fluctuations show that there are better returns for these products in comparison to the traditional food grains. This signifies a fundamental shift in Indian agriculture. Farmers are seemingly taking more risks by growing perishables where annual losses are as high as Rs. 32,000 crore. The players in this sector are driven by better incomes, urbanisation and higher consumption of fruits and vegetables.
'Horticultural Statistics at a Glance 2017' states, “Great potentialities exist for cultivation of flowering plants. Increasing trends in area and production of flowers has been observed since 2003-04 onwards. In addition to the beautification of the local landscape, great scope exists for export of flowers; and floriculture is important for the beekeeping industry which too provides an alternate source of income to Indian farmers.”
One of the major challenges faced by Indian farmers is the problem of market linkage. Rawat stated, “The supply chains have developed over the years for horticulture but lots of things have to be done in order to strengthen the supply line.”
Professor Jitesh Kumar Hore, Dean, Faculty of Horticulture, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, West Bengal told BE, “A major bottleneck of Indian horticulture is that the fruit and vegetable sector is marked by a very high degree of wastage and value loss. The storage and handling techniques at the farms are inadequate and the harvesting of the products is done without considering the distance over which the produce has to be transported.”
According to market insiders, there is an existence of a traditional system of wholesale marketing in India where commission agents and traders dominate the supply chain and are the major price settlers. In most of the cases, the farmers have to depend on them for credit. There is a lack of marketing power among the farmers who have low share in the final consumer price. Again, since the products are marketed through commission grants, there is no incentive for its quality. The wholesale markets are poorly designed and lacks infrastructure for packaging, grading, sorting and cold-storing.
There have been certain initiatives by the government for boosting the horticulture sector. Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) is a scheme from the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India that aims at the holistic growth of the horticulture sector covering fruits, vegetables, root and tuber crops, mushrooms, spices, flowers, aromatic plants, coconut, cashew, cocoa and bamboo. The central government contributes 60% of the total outlay for developmental programmes in all states except the states in North East and the Himalayas and 40% share is contributed by the state governments. In the case of North Eastern and the Himalayan states, the central government contributes 90%.
Horticultural exports and destinations
An article titled “Growth of horticulture sector in India” in the Indian Journal of Agricultural Sciences states, “Horticultural sector accounts for about 37% of the total exports of agricultural commodities. Exports of horticultural commodities from India have increased eight times since 2011 to reach Rs. 14856 crore in 2015-16. Overall exports of horticulture products have recorded a sustained rising trend over the past several years (18% per year).” The report further stated that among the commodity groups, fresh onion alone accounts for 18.5%. The processed products including mango pulp, dried and preserved vegetables and other processed fruits and vegetables together constituted only about 30% of the total exports in 2015-16. Much of the export basket is constituted by fresh products or products with low levels of processing.