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Indian markets opening up to branded fruit, flowers, vegetables

Monday, 19 May 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Much in the manner in which you buy other consumer goods, the next time you ask for mangoes in a supermarket you might be asked to specify the brand.

As globalisation spreads and a variety of branded fruit, vegetables and flowers jostle for shelf space, they may soon face stiff competition from home-grown varieties.

Branded Indian horticulture products are slowly emerging as tough competitors in the domestic market, the craze for imported fruit and flowers notwithstanding, experts say.

Unlike in the past, there is focus on creating a domestic market for branded products. Now the trend is changing, says H. P. Singh, horticulture commissioner with the agriculture ministry.

"From earmarking the best fruits like Alphanso mangoes for exports, the focus has to some extent shifted to the domestic market as people are willing to pay premium prices for the best products," Singh told IANS in an interview.

"We are emerging as a consumer driven economy. In the case of fruits also, the trend of branding is emerging.

"In two to three years, the trend of people demanding products of a particular company will have become the norm as they come to be known for their quality," contended Singh.

The second largest producer of horticulture products after China, India has earmarked 45 areas in different states as agri-export zones. While these are essentially meant to cater to the growing export market, the domestic demand for quality products is seeing some diversion of products.

India has come a long way from being an import dependent country to a food surplus state. It was only after the 1960s and 1970s ushered in an era of self-sufficiency in food that the Indian government decided, in 1992, to focus attention on horticulture to encourage diversification to high value crops.

The 240 million allocated for horticulture in 1987-92 increased to 10 billion in 1992-97 and jumped to 14.53 billion in 1997-2002 to provide better plant material and other facilities like drip irrigation to farmers.

"All these efforts have helped India to usher in the Golden Revolution and emerge as the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables after China. We have come to be recognised as exporters of quality spices and even in floriculture, our produce is being noticed in global markets," said Singh.

India's horticulture exports are currently over 80 billion.

Over the years, a changing pattern of food consumption has led to an increasing shift towards fruits and vegetable in the diet of Indians in preference over cereals, said Singh.

"The changing dietary habits, nutritional needs of the people and rising income levels in the country - as also export demands - has led us to reassess the need for boosting horticulture produce. We have estimated that the horticulture yield has to go up from 153 million tonnes now to 360 million tonnes by 2020."

This has been supported by adoption of new technologies and plant breeding material to enhance the quality and quantity of horticulture produce. For the 2002-07 period, the government has earmarked 35 billion in this sector.

"Little do people realise that many a time, white orchids imported from Thailand and available in various colours as traders use dyes to shade them. They are sometimes even made over with little spots to make them more attractive. In comparison, Indian orchids, though a little more expensive, are available in many attractive colours - and that too fresh," said Singh.

Catering to the growing demand of people to have fruits all year round, farmers are being encouraged to sow and cultivate different varieties of fruits apart from the traditional varieties of a region.

Now Dussheri mangoes from Hyderabad hit the market much before the premium varieties from Lucknow arrive.

Similarly, Alphanso is now grown not only in the traditional coastal belt of Ratnagiri in Maharastra and Goa but also in Karnataka and other areas of Maharashtra.

"While the taste may vary, it fulfils the people's desire to have fruits, particularly their favourite mangoes, for longer periods during the year," said Singh.

Even as it caters to growing domestic demand, India is making efforts to showcase its diverse product basket, particularly hundreds of varieties of mangoes, grapes and bananas, overseas to garner a bigger global market share.

Source: IANS
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