Imported fruits posing challenges to domestic growers
Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar expressed concern that imported fruits like apples and kiwis are posing a major challenge to domestic growers and emphasised the need to strengthen supply side infrastructure to ensure locally produced fruits compete with imported ones. He said their is a need to implement the recommendations of the Saumita Chaudhuri report on cold chain development for reducing post-harvest losses and improve farmers income.
"We need to attach importance to cold chain infrastructure and implement the recommendations of the Saumitra Chaudhuri report so that we can effectively compete with supply chain for imported apples, pears, grapes, kiwis and cherries which is posing a major challenge to domestic growers," Pawar said addressing the National Horticulture Conference here.
Although there is a pan India market for kiwis from Arunachal Pradesh, cherries from Jammu and Kashmir, pears from Punjab and grapes from Maharashtra, government need to address concerns of growers -- from planting material to post harvest management and issues of logistics and price discovery.
Noting that the challenge before the government is to ensure adequate income to farmers, Pawar said: "The only way we can have equitable and inclusive growth is when small farmers can save enough to invest in newer production technologies. If we do not make farming remunerative, we will not be able to retain the interest of younger generation." The targeted 4 per cent farm growth could be achieved in 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) from high-value agriculture, of which horticulture is an important segment, he noted. Stating that India has a long way to go in establishing a robust cold chain system from farm to fork, he asked his horticulture officials to look at some technologies relevant to India and identify more 'origin-destination routes' for movement of horticulture produce.
Also, he asked if integrated projects could be taken up on cold chain in production clusters with linkages to consumption centres and how the centre can work closely with state governments and growers associations. With likely rise in demand for vegetables and fruits, Pawar said there is a need to further enhance production these items as demand is expected grow with higher income, urbanisation and changing food habits.
Currently, productivity of horticulture crops is lower in India as compared to other countries and the yield gaps need to be address in the current plan period itself. He also asked state governments to take adequate measures to address the impact of climate change on horticulture crops. India is the second largest producer of vegetables and fruits in the world.