Many experts feel more focus on the horticulture sector may ease agrarian distress in India. But domestic market linkage and opportunities to grow in the international market are necessary for horticulture producers and distributors. Government bodies and institutes are functioning to enhance the market linkage scope. Such efforts need to be amplified and expedited.
Three different clusters of stakeholders are running the horticulture business in India. They are the small scale independent producers or farmers, the owners of horticulture firms where farmers are working as agri-labours and the distributors of horti-products in the domestic or the international market. Now, each of the clusters is facing challenges in their own peripheries. The small scale producers are remaining local and are not able to expand their market opportunities. Additionally in some cases, they are unable to deliver the products to the end consumers directly. In such situations, the small scale producers are reaching the market through middlemen which is significantly reducing their margins. Governmental financial support and market linkage is needed for these farmers.
On the other hand, owners of horticulture firms and distributors are experiencing a lack of demand in the international market and that is definitely restricting their export market.
Government institutes are taking considerable steps to help horticulturalists by offering them better market linkage opportunities through exhibitions and promotional activities. The Central Institute of Horticulture is organising regular buyer seller meets and trade fairs to help the grass-root level producers have direct market exposure. The institute is also organising various farmers’ awareness programmes on government horticultural schemes. NABARD, National Horticulture Board, Spices Board, state horticulture departments and private entrepreneurs are also involved in the process.
The Central Institute of Horticulture also recently collaborated with the National Institute of Agricultural Marketing to organise an ‘Entrepreneurship Development Programme’ to highlight the prospects of entrepreneurship in horticulture.
According to a recently released report by the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, total horticulture production in 2019-20 is expected to be 313.35 million tonne (MT) marginally higher than the previous year which was 310.74 MT. A loss in the fruit business can pull the fruit production down by 2.27% in 2020 as compared to the production in 2019. However, due to the increasing production of onions, tomatoes and potatoes in the current fiscal, the overall vegetables production is expected to be increased by 2.64% in the current year. The area under horticulture cultivation has also increased marginally.
India’s horticultural sector is lacking in the export market. Dr. Prodyut Kumar Paul, Dean, Faculty of Horticulture, Uttar Banga Krishi Viswavidyalaya, told BE, “The quality of horticultural products from India somehow failed to compete with the standards of international markets. Postharvest infrastructure is also unsatisfactory in India.” Government bodies and horticulture institutes are trying to bridge this gap.
Shafiqul Islam, a floriculturist from the Shikarpur village in North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal, a prominent floricultural production centre, told BE, “India used to play a significant role in flower exports. Lesser demand from the international markets has restrained the export business. Along with rose, seasonal winter flowers like tuberose (rajanigandha) stick was an exclusive offering of our village. But, as other flower hubs have started to produce these items, our business dropped.”
Thailand used to import roses from India. But for the last few years, they have curtailed the rose import as the country itself has started to produce roses. Islam said, “We have started to focus on the domestic consumption and are delivering to Odisha, Bihar, and the north-eastern states.” Islam added, “The Mullick Ghat flower market in Howrah, Kolkata is receiving international orders. Shikarpur is one of the suppliers to the Mullick Ghat flower market.”
Potential of the sector
To enhance the potential of the sector, financial schemes for packaging need to be provided. State-of-the-art packaging techniques can revive India’s exports in the international horticulture market. Dr. Paul added, “At this moment, this technological advancement needs consolidation and meticulous alignment with policy initiatives taking the socio-economic conditions of the resource-starved Indian farmers into account.”