Horticulture Vis-à-vis Food Grain Cultivation

In recent years, several factors have driven the horticulture production to boost up over the foodgrain production in the country. Statistics have shown that the production of horticulture has overtaken that of foodgrains in the year 2014-15 by a whopping 31 million tonnes. In fact, this was the third financial year in which the phenomenon has occurred. Better incomes, urbanization and higher consumption of fruits and vegetables has driven its growth in recent years.

The above topic should be analyzed in the light of below questions:

  • What are main advantages of horticulture vis-a-vis food grains production in the country?
  • There has been a paradigm shift in India’s economic conditions and cropping patterns in last few decades. Can we link that to current downward trend in foodgrains?
  • Often we read in newspapers that Horticulture sector is also facing severe problems. What are these problems?
What are main advantages of horticulture vis-a-vis food grains production in the country?

India’s long growing-season, diverse soil and climatic conditions comprising several agro-ecological regions provide ample opportunity to grow a variety of horticulture crops. Horticulture helps in improving productivity of land,  generating employment, improving economic conditions of the farmers and entrepreneurs,  enhancing exports and foreign exchange earnings, and above all, providing nutritional security to the people. A remarkable benefit in horticulture is that it does not get affected by droughts as it has a better access to irrigation system than foodgrains. This apart, the comparative advantage of horticulture vis-a-vis foodgrains cultivation should be understood in the light of these:

Net Returns received from Horticultural versus Non-Horticultural Crops

If comparison of net returns from horticultural crops and non-horticultural crops is done, it reveals that net return from horticultural crops like mandarin oranges, pineapple, etc. remains considerably higher than the traditional non-horticultural crops measured in terms of net monetary returns. In fact, net return from pineapple stands is almost four times the net return received from traditional crops like paddy, etc. It can safely be said that horticulture appears to be more profitable cultivation practice when compared to traditional kharif crops. Whereas, rabi crops like ginger, potato, turmeric and chilly can also yield higher returns, but their cultivation is confined to tiny stretch of land, generally as a backyard garden activity.

Use of Human Labour in Horticultural versus Non-Horticultural Crops

By analysing the human labour application (crop-wise man-days per acre) reveals that the requirement of human labour in pineapple production is much higher than the use of human labour in case of mandarin oranges. In particular, the use of human labour in pineapple cultivation is almost two-and-half times than that in case of mandarin oranges. A size-class wise comparison shows that human labour application increases with increase in farm-size in case of both pineapple and mandarin orange production. It should be noted that in this analysis, human labour application refers to both hired labour and even own family labour, converted at regional average wage rates.

Marketing Channels of Horticultural Crops

Marketing of the output produced is one of the most important aspects in case of horticultural crops. It is not so in case of field crops like paddy, maize, etc. Horticultural crops like pineapple and mandarin oranges are perishable in nature so need to be marketed as early as possible.

Due to the added advantages in Horticulture, it is replacing the traditional types of farming like farming of paddy, wheat, etc. With the decelerating rate of growth of agriculture, the horticulture sector assumed more importance to achieve and have targeted growth in agriculture at large scope.

There has been a paradigm shift in India’s economic conditions and cropping patterns in last few decades. Can we link that to current downward trend in foodgrains?

A paradigm shift of economic condition has taken place with the advent of new economic policies since the mid-1990s. India is emerging as one of the economic majors in the world economy. India is rapidly changing herself from state of a developing nation to a developed one. Indian agriculture still continues to be an important factor for sustainable development and poverty eradication. Even today agriculture is the main source of livelihood and food security for a huge part of our population in India. A paradigm shift of Indian economy in Indian agriculture has given tremendous impetus to the core of the Indian economic scenario. Indian agriculture moved from subsistence farming to intensive and technology-based cultivation. With traditional agriculture, crop diversification is also adopted with modern technologies which boosted up the existing sentiments, and now agriculture is often being considered as a growing industry.

Cereal yields have gone down drastically and consumer preferences also shifted away from cereals and changed to high-value agricultural produce. This has pushed the farmers towards a better and profitable means of production. It was also argued that horticulture could be brought forward as a means of agro-diversification for second Green Revolution, providing the required impetus to the growth of agricultural sector through increase in trade, income and employment. Horticultural crops provided a better alternative for diversification of Indian agriculture due to higher returns available from them.

Often we read in newspapers that Horticulture sector is also facing severe problems. What are these problems?

Indian horticulture sector is also facing severe constrains such as

  • low crop productivity,
  • limited irrigation facilities and
  • underdeveloped infrastructure support like cold storages, markets, roads, transportation facilities, etc.

There are heavy post-harvest and handling losses, resulting in low productivity per unit area and high cost of production. However, on the other hand, India’s long growing-season, diverse soil and climatic conditions comprising several agro-ecological regions provide ample opportunity to grow a variety of horticulture crops. Thus, efforts are needed in the direction to capitalize on our strengths and remove constrains to meet the goal of moving towards a higher horticultural growth in India. Government of India initiated several programmes to find solutions. The National Horticulture Mission (NHM), is one such programme which is the only largest program within the Ministry of Agriculture, it has been implemented in 2005-06 to promote holistic growth of the horticulture sector including fruits, vegetables, root & tuber crops, mushroom, spices, flowers, aromatic plants, cashew and cocoa ensuring linkages with the active participation of almost all the stake holders.NHM acquires a unique position because it adopts a cluster-based approach to promote specific products in specific regions with comparative higher advantage.

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