But no credible agri export strategy is visible!

Surplus onion and potato production and fall in prices!

This `annual ritual’ gives us an idea of how horticulture sector is capable of over producing and prices crashing! Indian horticulture cries for attention. What we need is not extension of horticrops. Nor crop productivity. What we need is to improve quality in every way. Instead of expanding production, we need assured market for specific crops. Quality production, quality packaging, brand building and States-specific export agencies to attend to crops specific to their regions could add more to the incomes of farmers. A beginning has already been made in India by the government identifying about 40 agri-export zones all over the country through which horticultural produce such as mangoes, gherkins, rose onions, lichees and so on.

Says Dr.Wilfred Baudoin, senior officer, Horticulture Crops Group of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “Two major aspects addressed globally are productivity and consumption. We need to create awareness in terms of vegetable consumptions.”

The average vegetable supply available in the world is 102 kg per person per year with Asia consuming the highest amount 116 kg. Horticulture offers the biggest scope, given India’s status as the second large producer of vegetables and fruits and year, round weather conditions to cultivate all varieties of horti products.

Horticulture as a major agri diversification is not even pursued with any seriousness, apart from Karnataka, AP and perhaps, HP. Even in predominantly advanced agri States, it is paddy that is emphasized. Take for instance TN or Kerala. The two States have immense potential for horti development. In TN, after the Cauvery waters dried up, in Tanjore, there is only despair no attempt to diversify farming. Even the coastal land where commercial shrimp farming was attempted is facing resistance.

In the predominantly horti district, Dharmapuri (which is closer to us, in Bangalore) there is this sheer cynicism prevailing. Mango, the major crop is cultivated, yes but left to the ingenuity of the farmers, most poor by any standards. There is not even one certified nursery where you can buy quality mango and other nursery plants. The private nursery men in one noted village live in pitiable condition. Investments in horticulture are still possible and attractive. But the banks, Nabard must come with innovative funding strategies. Only now, we learn Nabard, faced with a crisis of identity, it is surplus with funds; it has announced a potential-linked credit for floriculture. This is welcome.

Why not identify export-oriented horticrops and identity potential investors with co-funding strategies. Apeda’s record in agri exports is less than what can be done even under the present conditions. National Horticultural Board? Is it functioning? ICAR? Who knows what it is doing? There is in India this mental make-up of agri scientists-turned bureaucrats. They know best! So, there is no way to penetrate their minds, or even to unravel their sheer stagnation! Yes, they are now proving an obstacle to commercial farming at all levels. Now comes the news about what is the state of mango cultivation and export from the leading mango producing state, namely AP. Yes, AP which also has the dubious distinction of being a State under the redoubtable CM, and a State where the largest number of farmers commit suicides!

Anyway, the State’s leading mango variety, Banganapalli (Banisha) is exported; its export target is nowhere near 1000 tonnes. This for a State which produces in lakhs of tonnes. Alphonso, on the other hand, is well-known as an Indian brand and exported to foreign countries. While Banganapalli is now reaching only 376 tonnes in 2001 and it is reported it is not remunerative activity.

There is an agri export zone now in Krishna district, the large growing area. There is a pre-cooling unit at Gollapudi with a capacity of 40 tonnes but, farmers say, it is nowhere near capacity to undertake an export obligation of the needed scale. Now, says the agri minister Mr.V.Sobhanadreeswara Rao: Now the export promotion zone is sanctioned and more facilities we would create for grading, packing, storing and exporting”.

Yes, quality cultivation practices, the current yield per acre in these regions is three tonnes, one-third of which is only of exporting quality standards. By exporting just one third of the production, just one tonne per acre, the farmer will get Rs.16,000. In selling the 3 tonnes in local market he would get Rs.6000. The net return per acre to farmers won’t go beyond Rs.11,000. But exporting just one tonne, the income will be quite substantial: between Rs.16,000 and Rs.20,000. A tonne of fruits in Hong Kong, Singapore and Gulf markets may fetch even Rs.70,000.

Unfortunately, it is not production or productivity that is the core issue. It is ensuring how we sell and export in a profitable way for farmers. Here, what we need are agri management experts. Bodies like Apeda, NHB and State-level agri export schemes must function like NDDB, in a thorough professional way.

Image Source  : outwithari.blogspot.com

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