Sunday, August 4, 2013

Fruits of research expected to enter supply chain soon

With the food inflation going over the top, the average consumer is becoming more budget-conscious, as well as laying stress on quality of items he buys. But with agriculture and horticulture technologies yet to reach the farmer, the buyer is yet to get the bang for his buck.

“We can buy only half a kilo of apples as they are pricey. Instead of two apples a week, I can consume only one a week, but I make sure the fruit is blemish-free. Why should I get rotten apples when I pay more,” says bank employee Tirumaleshwar Bhat.

With a series of festivals lined up—starting from Nagarapanchami on August 11, followed by Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Dasara, Diwali and Christmas at the end of the year—the new fruit season has already started badly for the consumer and the prices will only go up till December, say the merchants. The quality of fruits for the price they pay appears to be on the top of the minds of the consumer.

Indian consumer market in the recent times has undergone behavioural changes to a large extent. “This is basically due to the high cost of living compounded by inflation. I am not surprised that the consumer is now more conscious of quality to ensure that he is not squandering his hard-earned money for buying sub-standard goods,” Prof GV Joshi, former head of the department of economics, Mangalore University, told dna.

According to Prof Joshi, the serious imperfections in the market can be corrected only by minimising the wastage by improving the quality of market chain right from production to the plate of the consumer.

A silent revolution towards educating the horticulturist has already begun, the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research at Hessaraghatta, near Bangalore, has researched several products that will provide value of money to consumers.

“Most of our horticulturists follow primitive method of harvesting. They go by the size  (of the produce), their instincts and field practices when it comes to fruits like sapota (chikoo), pomegranate, custard apple and several types of mangoes. The density of the fruit is not measured scientifically, often resulting in early plucking, which leads to rotting of fruit, or substandard pulp, in-charge director and head of the fruit crop division of the IIHR Dr R Chitiraichelvan told dna.

He said researchers at the IIHR were looking at developing an electronic device in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.  

“With the increase in quality awareness among consumers, market dynamics have also changed. The IIHR has developed several post-harvest processes to improve the shelf life of the fruits without sacrificing the quality,” IN Doreyappa Gowda, senior scientist at the post-harvest division of IIHR, said. “One of the processes we have launched is hurdle processing, which helps arrest physiological loss of weight by slowing down process of multiplication of micro-organism activity in the fruit.”

But farmers complain that all those technology advancements and knowledge is yet to reach them. “Till then, high prices or not, consumer cannot expect quality of product from his fruit from his vendor,” said Bharamesh, a Papaya grower of Chitradurga.

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