New Delhi: Small and marginal farmers across India are likely to harvest the largest ever volume of horticulture crops like fruits and vegetables, estimated at 287.3 million tonnes in 2016-17, shows the first advance estimated released by the agriculture ministry.
The record harvest is a little over a million tonne higher than the year before (286.2 million tonnes) and 2016-17 will be the fifth straight year when horticulture production will outstrip that of foodgrains.
However, ample supplies coupled with the cash crunch following demonetisation in November led to vegetable prices falling sharply. Wholesale prices of vegetables fell by 17% (year on year) in November followed by an even steeper 33% in December.
A record Kharif crop and higher winter plantings in 2016-17 raised hopes that foodgrain production during the year will meet the government set target of 270 million tonnes (surpassing the previous best of 265 million tonnes in 2013-14). A bumper horticulture and foodgrain production—following a normal monsoon in 2016 after consecutive years of drought—also means agriculture growth rate may surpass the 4.1% estimated by the statistics department in January.
The estimates released by the agriculture ministry shows that during 2016-17 production of fruits rose to 91.7 million tonnes from 90.2 million tonnes in 2015-16, while vegetable production fell marginally, from 169 million tonnes to 168.6 million tonnes during this period.
Among major vegetables, production of potatoes and tomatoes rose marginally while that of onions fell by around 6%, the data shows.
As much as 43.8 million tonnes of potatoes are likely to be harvested in 2016-17 (compared to 43.3 million tonnes in 2015-16) and tomato production is likely to rise form 18.7 million tonnes to 18.9 million tonnes. Production of onions is estimated at 19.7 million tonnes in 2016-17, over a million tonne lower than the harvest last year.
The data further shows horticulture crops were planted in an area spanning 24.4 million hectares in 2016-17, marginally lower than the 24.5 million hectares planted last year. Among states, Uttar Pradesh tops the list with an estimated horticulture production of 37 million tonnes followed by West Bengal (27.5 million tonnes), Gujarat (23.4 million tonnes) and Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra ( 20.7 million tonnes each).
“Despite rising horticulture production farmers have suffered heavily due to price volatility and the government needs to understand that the electronic national market platform is not an answer to ensure remunerative prices,” said Devinder Sharma, a Chandigarh based farm policy analyst.
“This year in Chhattisgarh and other states farmers are dumping their tomatoes by the roadside while India is importing tomato paste from other countries (to manufacture puree and ketchup),” Sharma said, adding, “our trade policy needs a correction and the government has to help farmers market their produce and ensure better processing facilities.”