Horticulture - Creating India's Agriculture Edge

<p>It is a well-researched and documented fact that the horticulture activity is the most environmentally sustainable farming practice, highly remunerative production activity for small farmers, and produces highly nutritional food for the consumers. Also, the economic growth in the production of vegetables and fruits has far exceeded the growth of other agricultural commodities, and the consumption of horticultural produce continues to accelerate in both domestic and international markets. This growth in demand for horticulture is fueled by affluent urban consumers in developing countries, as well as by consumers in developed countries whose diets are increasingly incorporating greater amounts of horticultural products.</p><p>The growth in global demand for horticulture products is also linearly being followed by an increase in the relocation of production from the developed world to the developing world. Many parts of the developing world, especially countries like India, have a relative advantage in the production of horticultural crops by virtue of the high labour-to-land ratio, a large number of agro-climatic zones favourable to the majority of horticulture crops, and last but not least low per capita incomes of farmers due to inherent agro-economic factors especially smaller landholding. Small and marginal farmers can usually earn much higher farm incomes growing horticultural crops compared to cereal crops, and horticultural production results in rural economic growth and the creation of off-farm jobs through value-added industries and the local/export marketing of these goods. Horticultural crops also have the potential to benefit human health by increasing dietary diversity and alleviating micronutrient deficiencies. Crop diversification, biodiversity, and proper management of horticultural crops can lead to significant benefits to the environment as well.</p><p><strong>Horticulture: The Indian Context</strong></p><p>India is blessed with 127 agro-climatic zones (as per National Agricultural Research Project - NARP) suitable for the cultivation of various horticultural crops such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, medicinal plants, and plantation crops. These agro-climatic zones because of their natural resources, types of crops, farming systems, production methods, and socio-economic conditions have enabled India to be the second-largest country in the world in horticulture production, just behind China. India&rsquo;s share in the production of fruits in the world has been around 11.2 percent (in 2018, the world produced a total of 868 million tonnes of fruit while India produced 97.38 million tonnes), while for vegetables it is around 17 percent (in 2018, the world produced a total of 1,089 million tonnes of vegetables while India produced 187.36 million tonnes).</p><p>The Government of India&rsquo;s initiatives including the flagship National Horticulture Mission (NHM) program enabled the sector to make impressive strides. Horticulture production has more than doubled to 314 million tons between 2001-02 and 2018-19. Compared to this, the achievement in food grain production was from 213 million tons to 285 million tons during the same period. The area under horticulture production too increased to 25.5 million hectares which is 20 percent of the total area under food grains. The productivity of horticulture crops also increased from 8.8 tons per hectare to 12.3 tons per hectare in the same reference period compared to the productivity increase of food grains from 1.7 tons per hectare to 2.3 tons per hectare.</p><p>The vast production base offers India tremendous opportunities for export. During 2018-19, India exported fruits and vegetables worth Rs. 10,355.90 crores/ 1,475.61 USD Millions which comprised of fruits worth Rs. 4,817.37 crores/ 686.42 USD Millions and vegetables worth Rs. 5,538.53 crores/ 789.19 USD Millions. Some of the key exports from India include Grapes, Pomegranates, Mangoes, Bananas, Oranges, and Apple in fruits, while Onions, Mixed Vegetables, Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Green Chilly contribute largely to the vegetable export basket. The major destinations for Indian fruits and vegetables are Bangladesh, UAE, Netherland, Nepal, Malaysia, UK, Sri Lanka, Oman and Qatar.</p><p><strong>However, India's share in the global market is still 1 percent only, but there is increasing acceptance of horticulture produce from the country.</strong></p><p><strong>Global Competitive Landscape</strong></p><p>Horticultural production has risen steadily in most regions of the developing world over the past few decades. While some of the regions like Sub-Saharan Africa are facing uphill tasks due to poor infrastructure while Latin America and the Caribbean is being able to leverage the strength of family farm tradition with a scientific temperament to be more successful than others.</p><p><strong>Sub-Saharan Africa</strong></p><p>Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the world. More than 60 percent of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa is small and marginal farmers, yet only 23 percent of sub-Saharan Africa&rsquo;s GDP comes from agriculture. Over the past decade, Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced encouraging economic growth averaging about 4.5 percent with some countries reaching an average of more than 8 percent.</p><p>Despite the impressive economic performance, the agricultural transformation has been slow and growth non-existent. The productivity is still way below its potentials, agricultural mechanization is weak and declining, and the state of the agribusiness industry is still unorganized, to say the least. Although there have been success stories in a few countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, it is fair to say that economic growth did not spill over to the agricultural sector. The same is true with horticulture, the average annual growth in per capita supply of horticultural produce has been negative in Sub-Saharan Africa while it could produce two to three times more than what is being produced currently.</p><p>The region has the key chronic challenges of non-existent local and regional markets, because of inadequate transportation and communication infrastructure, and inability to comply with Global GAP standards limits their participation in export markets throughout the region.</p><p><strong>Latin America and the Caribbean</strong></p><p>The region of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has made great strides in reducing hunger and poverty thanks to a positive macroeconomic environment and policies favoring the most vulnerable families. Today, however, the region is seeing an economic slowdown and there has been an increase in poverty over recent years. Hunger, poverty, and lack of opportunities in LAC remain concentrated in rural areas, among small-scale. While 26 percent of the region&rsquo;s urban population is poor, 46 percent of the region&rsquo;s rural population lives under the poverty line &ndash; almost double.</p><p>Farming is still the main economic activity in rural areas and the main source of employment for the economically active population in these areas. In particular, there are an estimated 17 million family farms in LAC, which represent around 60 million people, 80 percent of all farms, and 35 percent of the cultivated land in the region. Family farming contributes 40 percent of total agricultural output and generates over 60 percent of jobs related to agriculture in the region.</p><p>LAC currently export a high percentage of their horticultural products, especially to the United States. Despite some notable successes involving small-scale producers, however, the majority of LAC smallholders remain disenfranchised from the thriving export market. Despite their prominence in export horticulture, most LAC countries consume inadequate amounts of fruits and vegetables as a result of limited access, poor quality and inadequate safety of the available produce. While there is significant potential for expansion of local production and consumption, product quality and reliability must be enhanced.</p><p>LAC countries are also creating opportunities for smallholders to access niche export markets for high-value and brand-marketed products such as Fair Trade and certified organic products. The ability to meet strict phytosanitary standards of export markets has been accomplished through increased extension assistance and with local adoption of good agricultural practices (GAP) and good handling practices (GHP). LAC countries are also taking steps in research, conservation, and increased commercialization of indigenous fruits. Research and extension for management of natural resources and cultivation on marginal land, as well as appropriate crop selection, testing, certification, and quality assurance programs, are playing a crucial role in the prosperity of all producers, large and small.</p><p><strong>West Asia, Middle East, and North Africa</strong></p><p>The West Asia, Middle East, and North Africa region has cropping patterns in the region are also difficult to reconcile with the degree of water scarcity. While fruits and vegetables both consume less water and provide higher economic returns per drop, about 60 percent of harvested land remains in water-thirsty cereals, despite the fact that most countries in the region have a comparative advantage in the export of fruits and vegetables. A key reason for the seeming inconsistency between policy and water scarcity is a vision of food security that aims to reduce dependence on imports, particularly for cereals. At the same time, many countries subsidize the consumption of basic foodstuffs, which in conjunction with rising incomes is contributing to excess consumption of starches and sugars leading to dietary and health concerns.</p><p>However, over the past decade, the production of horticulture crops has increased substantially due to an increase in both the area under cultivation and productivity. Countries like Egypt and Iran are producing high-quality horticulture produce for both regional as well as global markets.</p><p>The biggest challenge faced by the region which is limiting its potential is lack of water and highly degraded soil. The region is the most water-stressed in the world, and two-thirds of countries continue to use groundwater at rates exceeding renewable internal freshwater. Yet the region has the lowest water prices in the world, as it spends massive resources on water subsidies (about 2 percent of GDP) and has total water productivity of only half the world average. Of the total land area of the region, only one-third is agricultural land (cropland and pastures), while only 5 percent is arable (cropland). The rest of the land is either urban or dry desert. Due to the dry climate, about 40 percent of cropped area in the region requires irrigation and only 4 percent of land in the region has soils of high or good suitability for rain-fed cultivation and 55 percent is unsuitable.</p><p>Appropriate water management is a priority throughout the region, strategies to maximize water use for smallholders will be important to ensure the growth of the industry.</p><p><strong>South and Southeast Asia</strong></p><p>The South and Southeast Asia region is a remarkably heterogeneous area characterized by a great diversity of agro-climatic zones, allowing for the production of almost any crop species and supporting a considerable richness in bio-diversity and indigenous species of regional interest.</p><p>Agriculture has always occupied an important position in the economic and social development of South and Southeast Asian countries, which has exclusively contributed to providing employment, improving food security, and reducing poverty in this region. Over recent decades, South and South East Asia have undergone rapid economic growth, the average GDP growth rate of South and South East Asia was close to 6 percent, during the period 2003&ndash;2016. However, the growth rate of agriculture on average was only around 3.2 percent for South and Southeast Asia during the same period. Furthermore, the share of agriculture in GDP is shrinking over time, while that of services and manufacture is increasing. Agriculture&rsquo;s share of GDP in South and Southeast Asian countries reduced from 22 percent in 2003 to less than 19 percent in 2016. The slowing growth and declining share of agriculture raise attention to the importance of promoting sustained agricultural growth in the region. Despite the decline of agriculture&rsquo;s share in the economy, agricultural employment still accounted for around 40 percent of total employment in major South and Southeast Asian countries. Comparatively, the share of agricultural employment in south Asia is higher than in southeast Asia.</p><p>While many South and Southeast Asian countries, including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia on average experienced improvements in agricultural productivity over the past decade and a half, mainly powered by technical progress, countries like Bhutan, Cambodia, Iran, and Afghanistan shown considerable reduction in productivity, mainly due to deterioration in technology and political conflicts.</p><p>The economic progress supported by agronomic considerations has made South and Southeast Asia the most suitable horticulture production region of the world. This region with close to 3 billion people and more than half of them directly engaged in agricultural activities is also suffering from hunger and nutritionally inadequate diets. The opportunity for the domestic, inter-regional, and global export of horticulture products is extremely high.</p><p>The region needs immediate investments in technology up-gradation, capacity building, and regional cooperation to unlock the potential of horticulture-based sustainable agriculture.</p><p><strong>Keys to Unlocking India&rsquo;s Horticulture Potential</strong></p><p>To make India the horticulture bowl of the world few things need to be done by the agriculture ecosystem</p><ul><li>Investments: In Seeds, Irrigation, Storage, Logistics, Technology, Processing and Markets.</li><li>Competitiveness: Need to produce more remunerative crops at prices lower than other regions with reduced environmental footprints.</li><li>Innovation: In business models, application of technology, value-chain approach, and marketing.</li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p>
KR Expert - Deepak Pareek

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