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India: Demand sees vegetables, fruits production go up

Boosted by rising consumer demand owing to better health awareness and purchasing power, production of fruits and vegetables across India has increased this year with their total yield surpassing the production of food grains.

The total production of fruits and vegetables in India was 255 million tonnes in 2014-15, which was 251.9 million tonnes the previous year. However, production of cereals has declined over 4.9% from 246 million tonnes to 234 million tonnes in the same period, says the provisional figures compiled by the Ministry of Statistics and Program implementation.

State-wise figures are not available yet. As per the 2012-13 data, Maharashtra accounts for over 12% of fruits and vegetable production in the country. Agriculture ministry officials attribute the rise in horticulture produce vis-à-vis cereals and pulses as a shift in cultivation practices. "A higher shelf life of fruits and vegetables due to better refrigeration, transportation and accessibility to markets appears to have boosted horticultural production which indicates towards a shift in the cultivation. There is increasing demand for healthy and fresh farm products in organised urban markets in India and even abroad," said an official.

Agriculture experts and farmer activists however say that decline in production of main crops is unrelated to the higher production of fruits and vegetables. They rather blame the lower production of grains on weak monsoon since past four years, skewed irrigation facilities, rising input cost, non-availability of cheap bank loans and flawed agriculture policy.

Studies have shown that consumption of wheat and rice has been declining around 1% - 2% in India, while the demand for fruits and vegetables has been rising by 2% - 3% annually, points out a professor from Konkan Kirshi Vidyapeeth.

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