Increased focus on horticulture crops will be a win-win formula: it will help increase farm income and support nutritional security
Opinion: Tarujyoti Buragohain
A remarkable but lesser-known fact about the National Horticulture Mission (NHM) is the crop diversification it has brought in.
The NHM a centrally-sponsored scheme was launched in 2005-06 with one of its major objectives being to increase horticulture production and doubling farmers’ income.
Horticulture production in India has more than doubled approximately from 146 million tonnes in 2001-02 to 314 million tonnes in 2018-19 whereas the production of foodgrain increased from 213 million tonnes to 285 million tonnes during the same period.
India is now self-sufficient in foodgrain production and is the largest global producer of farm products like pulses jute buffalo meat milk and poultry. It is also is the second-largest producer of several horticulture products especially fruit and vegetables.
Just before the launch of the NHM the production of horticulture crop was approximately 167 million tonnes using only 9.7% of the cropped area (18.5 million hectare); the total foodgrain production was 198 million tones covering 63%(120 million hectare) of total crop area of the country.
In 2012-13 total horticulture production at 269 million tonnes surpassed total foodgrain production at 257 million tonnes.
The area under horticulture crops increased to 25.5 million hectare in 2018-19 which is 20% of the total area under foodgrain and produced 314 million tonnes. However the area under total foodgrain declined from 129 million hectare in 2016-17 to 124 million hectare in 2018-19.
The most notable factor behind this is that the productivity of horticulture has increased from 8.8 tonnes per hectare in 2001-02 to 12.3 tonnes per hectare in 2018-19. The productivity of total foodgrain increased from 1.7 tonnes per hectare to 2.3 tonnes during the same period.
Horticulture crops are characterised by high-value crops higher productivity per unit of area and lower requirement of irrigation and input cost.
According to National Accounts Statistics 2019 the value of horticulture crops was Rs 4.7 lakh crore in 2011-12 at constant prices which increased to Rs 5.5 lakh crore in 2017-18. The total value of all crops was Rs 11.9 lakh crore in 2011-12 and increased to Rs 13.2 lakh crore in 2017-18.
The share of horticulture crops in relation to the value of all agricultural crops increased from 39% in 2011-12 to 42% during the same period.
Another important point of note is that share of value of export earnings from horticultural crops has been higher than the export value of total foodgrain. The total export value of horticultural crops includes crops such as spices cashew cashew nut shell liquid fruits-vegetable seeds fresh fruits vegetable oil fresh vegetable processed vegetable processed fruits and juice floriculture products tea coffee Ayush and herbal products and cocoa products.
The export of foodgrain crops consists of Basmati rice non-basmati rice other cereals pulses and wheat. The total value of agricultural export was approximately Rs 29700 crore in 2001-02 which increased to Rs 2.75 lakh crore in 2018-19.
Similarly the value of horticultural export too increased from approximately Rs 8000 crore to Rs 63700 crore and the value of foodgrain export increased from Rs 5000 crore to Rs 58600 crore during the same period. The value of export of horticultural products is much higher than the value of exports of foodgrain in the total agricultural export value except for the year 2007-08.
In a nutshell horticulture production contributes more to crop production despite much lower land use and lower input cost.
However these crops require better infrastructure to prevent post-harvest crop losseslike cold storage and better warehousing which will go a long way toward enhancing farmers’ income.
Recently the government announced Rs 1 lakh crore support for agriculture infrastructure development especiallyfor cold storage warehousing and markets for farmers. This will certainly benefit farmers to increase their income directly or indirectly.
Increased focus on horticulture crops could be a win-win formula both at the top level as well as the bottom level for the government to accomplish its endeavour in nutritional security as well as increasing farmers’ income.
The author Tarujyoti Buragohain is Associate Fellow NCAER Views are personal