India appointed new commissioner for horticulture
May. 29, 2017
"I would like to work for the farming community. A couple of our objectives are to attract a new generation for Indian agriculture, which is set to be based on technology driven ventures. We want to provide input with regards to such issues as good quality planting material, marketing issues, residue free production and the prevention of post harvest loss. In the end, we want the Indian horticulture sector to be a vibrant and profitable venture."
According to Murthy, the Indian horticultural sector is in a phase of rapid growth. The current season of 2016-2017 is the fifth straight year in which horticultural production out performs the production of the cereal sector. The contribution of the horticultural production to the gross domestic product is increasing every year.
He also added that, though horticulture in India is on the rise, the farmers are conservative. The reason for this is the instability of the prices and issues due to changing weather circumstances. One of the solutions the government provides is through online platforms, such as the "e-mandi" (e-trading) concept. Though the technology for improving production is available, there is still need for ways to make this technology available in remote communities.
For instance, communication through mobile phones is booming in India. It is considered as a very important aspect to enhance the access of farmers to innovative technologies. I'm quite tech savvy myself, so encouraging mobile apps. is one of my priorities."
In Murthy's opinion, the productivity of major horticultural cooperatives in India is still far below its full potential. "There is a lot of room for improvement through available technologies. The implementation of precision horticulture would go a long way in boosting our productivity."
"Though quite controversial, GM crops could be a major asset in terms of increasing the quality of our horticultural produce. GM cultivation could help in terms of nutrition and extended shelf life. If a cultivar is made resistant to disease and pests through proven GM technology, we could also cut back in the amount of pesticide residues."
For Murthy, quality is one of the major aspects that horticulture should be based on. A majority of crops have a short shelf life, which he thinks should be addressed through better post harvest practices, such as the implementation of a solid cold chain. Another quality issue is pesticide residue. He thinks that a strict and clear policy on pesticide usage should safeguard consumer health.
Another challenge is sustainability, especially with regards to irrigation. Horticulture crops are grown with a stable system for irrigation. However, the quality of available water is a matter of concern. The government has started the initiative 'More crop per drop' through Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), which is aimed at water conservation and water management.
Another issue is the availability of good quality planting material, especially with regards to perennial crops. "We provide planting material through nurseries and seed accreditation. We also encourage producers' organizations to establish their own brands for export markets and the domestic market. This definitely helps to mainstream the idea of promoting and strengthening member-based institutions of farmers".
India is currently the second biggest country in the global output of horticultural products, contributing 11.84% and 13.36% for fruits and vegetables, respectively. Murthy admits that India's productivity is lagging behind competing countries.
"The availability of flowers is increasing year by year significantly in all major cities and these are also being exported on a large scale. Besides being the largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices, India also has good prospects for growing medicinal and aromatic plants. Plus, India is the largest producer of coconuts, areca nuts and cashew nuts in the world."
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