|AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE||Monday, August 19, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
vegetables in off-season, make money
have quality, will export
India is the world’s second largest producer of vegetables after China, but hardly 1 per cent of the produce is exported. The main constraint is the quality of vegetables. The quality requirements for vegetables for export differ from those for domestic needs.
Though uniformity in size and colour are universally accepted attributes, there are several other specific quality requirements for the world market. Some of our country’s export consignments have been rejected at the destination for not meeting the recommended international standards due to pesticide residues and contamination with fungicides and other agro chemicals.
Different markets require different qualities. For example, Japan and European markets demand yellow or brown varieties of onion, whereas West Asian and Southeast Asian countries require light to dark red varieties. The quantity demanded also differs in various months owing to no local production, particularly in Southeast Asian countries. In European markets the requirement is mainly from November-December to April-May, when there is no local production or stored produce is not available or preferred by the consumer.
We also have a lack of varieties with good shelf life and demand in the export market. Since we do not have good and a uniform variety in any crop, a lot of labour and money is wasted in sorting and grading operations. Moreover, quality control measures at grading and packing levels are also not perfect.
Owing to the highly perishable nature of vegetables, about 25-40 per cent of the produce gets wasted due to lack of adequate post-harvest handling, which cuts down the export quantities and increases competitiveness. Another reason why India has not been very successful in the export market is that most of the produce is purchased from the wholesale market or from contractors. In such conditions the exporter does not have any knowledge about the pre-harvest care during the growth period. Latent infections therefore appear by the time the produce reaches the importing country. This is a big setback to our exports. The only solution to this problem is contact farming under the supervision of exporters. Non-availability of air cargo space and high freight rates are other major constraints in increasing exports.
At times, because of failure of a particular crop in India, increased local demand and restrictions on export lead to uncertainty in the export position of the country. Another problem is domestic demand and prices of vegetables are high, which hinders regular export. There is major competition now from neighbouring Asian countries, so India has to honour a minimum export quantity and agreed delivery for a period of 10 years.
A few enterprising farmers from Punjab have started exporting snow peas to markets in the UK, UAE, Denmark, France, Germany and Holland. While the variety of vegetables traded is large, exclusive dependence rests on onion, which accounts for more than 70 per cent of the total foreign exchange earned from fresh vegetables. Apart from fresh onion, other prime fresh vegetables that are exported are okra, peas, bittergourd, green chilli, muskmelon, bottlegourd, sweet pepper, brinjal and arbi.
The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has identified traditional and non-traditional vegetables with good export potential. As many as 63 varieties vegetable are traded in the world market. The Punjab Agri Export Corporation (PAGREXCO) had achieved success in marketing of fresh vegetables (2000 kg) from Punjab to the UK. No doubt, the quality of these vegetables does not compete in the international market, but they are accepted by Indians living there.
Export zones for vegetables are also being set up by PAGREXCO in association with APEDA at Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala, Sangrur, Ludhiana and Ropar.
India has also been exporting canned and dehydrated vegetables and various other products like pastes, frozen vegetables, ketchup, pickles, juices and powdered vegetables (onion and garlic) mainly to West Asian markets. These markets are receiving only 4.5 per cent of their fresh vegetables from India; so a tremendous potential exists in increasing export to these markets.
Among dehydrated vegetables, beans, onion and garlic are important and among frozen vegetables prospects for peas, cauliflower, French beans, baby carrot and okra are bright. Chilli oleoresin is another important export item, earning foreign exchange worth Rs 88 crore every year.
What to do
Though India has acquired a position of prominence as a supplier of vegetables, there is scope to strengthen the position further as it has suitable agro-climatic conditions for production of all types of vegetables throughout the year in one or the other part of the country. Vegetable growers and specialists, however, have not equipped themselves with the qualitative aspects of production and pre- and post-harvest core, which play a vital role. The required infrastructure facilities should be in position to facilitate grading, packing and movement of produce from the field to the final consumer in the shortest possible time. This requires governmental intervention and also sizeable investment in research and development. Setting up of 20 agri export zones in the new Exim (export-import) policy 2002-2007, is one of the major steps the Government of India has taken to promote export. It is also necessary to familiarise growers and exporters with the technologies related to qualitative aspects; it is no longer sufficient to serve the stomach’s need.
A quality control laboratory has been set up at the Punjab Horticultural Post-harvest Technology Centre, PAU, Ludhiana, especially to check the residue effect in different crops. The services of this facility are available to exporters and growers on payment.
There is a need to
establish and promote new processing units, net houses/ protected
cultivation for minimum use of insecticides, organic farming,
refrigerated vans, cold storage facilities, modern storage and packing
centres, more cargo space and pesticide residue testing laboratories.
These should be a close linkage between exporters and producers of
exportable surplus. Moreover, it is necessary to have a proper survey of
foreign markets as to their requirements of quality/types of crops and
accordingly enter new markets with suitable varieties.
Horse chestnut (Aesculus indica), or Bankhor, is a large broad-leaved, deciduous tree growing abundantly on moist and shady slopes in hills at 1200 to 3000 metres above mean sea level. Its other regional/local names are torjaga, hane, hanudun, han, kishing, gun, gugu, kandur, kandar pankar, pangar, etc. The family is Sapindaceae.
Bankhor generally prefers mountainous tracts with temperatures ranging between 32° and 8°C. Moist and yet well-drained loamy soil are its preference. The natural habitat of the species comprises middle Himalayan ranges from Sikkim-Nepal up to the Indus catchment, including Afghanistan.
A fully grown bankhor, a tree approaching maturity in about 60-80 years, is about 20-30 m tall and 2-3 m in diametre. Its main bole is straight and branches spread in all directions. The canopy has a beautiful, semispherical umbrella-like spread. The bark is grey, rough and tough. The leaves are compound, opposite and digitate. Overall, the size of the palm-like composite leaf is 15 to 25 cm along the length and 15 to 20 cm along the width.
New buds appear during spring and old leaves are shed during November-December. The tree flowers during late spring, i.e. April to June, soon after the sprouting of new foliage buds. The inflorescence is white to creamy and slanting in rise.
The fruit, appearing during June-July, globose in shape, 1 to 3 celled, is a 2-5 cm long capsule. The seed ripens by October-November for use as seed for artificial regeneration.
The wood is white to creamy in colour, close grained and yet soft in texture. It has small pores with numberous fine medulary rays and weighs about 16-17 kg per cubic foot. It is easy to saw, plane and turn and is used as a house-building timber, especially for non-exposed indoor fitments. It is also suitable for making cheap furniture, wooden measuring scales, handles for brushes, water troughs, platters, boats, packing cases and tea boxes.
The foliage of bankhor is lopped for fodder for cattle and goats eat the fruit greedily. In the event of famine, the seeds are dried and ground as flour and used as a supplement along with wheat flour for human consumption by poor people in remote hill areas.
Bankhor has medicinal value too. Its seed contains saponins, like aesculine, in addition to flavonoid glycosides, albumin and fatty oils. Aesculine is useful against phlebitis, haemorrhoids, varicose problems of veins, ulcers, thrombosis, migraine, blood effusion, limb problems, frost-bite, etc. The fruit cures horses of colic. A kind of oil extracted from the seeds relieves rheumatism. The seed can also be used in preparation of shampoos. A glycoside obtained from its bark absorbes ultraviolet rays and is used in suntan oils.
Bankhor breeds profusely from the abundant seed falling on the ground. However, the species can easily be propagated by direct sowing of seed in fallow land. For that the necessary stock is raised in polythene bags in nurseries. The beds are raised slightly above the ground level. Sowing is done in October-November. Germination takes place during March-April immediately after the melting of snow. One-year-old saplings are transplanted along with the mud in the polythene bags. Root-shoot dressed stock also gives satisfactory survival percentage.
vegetables in off-season, make money
Vegetables require specific temperature, photoperiod and soil type for growth. In the case of tropical states where seasonal temperatures do not fluctuate too much, production of vegetables is not difficult and the availability of vegetables remains for longer periods. But in the case of northern hills and adjoining plains where snowfall and cold waves prevail and during summers the temperature goes very high, the growth period for each crop is much reduced. Herein lies the scope for vegetable forcing.
The purpose of forcing is to grow vegetables out of their normal season by means of protection. There are major advantages to be derived from this: more income per unit area as there will be higher demand and availability of particular vegetables for longer periods. Growing vegetables out of their normal season depends primarily on two factors: expenditure on cultivation and the demand in the market. Although adjoining states may also be producing a particular vegetable due to its normal season there at a given time, they would be costly due to expenditure on transport also loose freshness.
In Punjab, due to extreme temperature variations over the year, the production period is very limited. Therefore, the scope of vegetable forcing is high. It is paying to increase the period of crop growth and to get crops in off-season by employing technology. A few important techniques are discussed here:
Choose right variety: There are early, main and late season varieties of various vegetables. Choose the right variety according to the climate and time of the year. For example, radish can be produced throughout the year by growing the appropriate variety according to season. Similarly, cauliflower season can run from June-July to February-March. Brinjal, cucurbits, okra (bhindi), etc., can be grown more than once a year.
Protection: Vegetables are produced in plastic tunnels, cold beds, hot frames, glasshouses or plastic houses. A tomato nursery is sown in the last week of October and transplanted in the first week of December and protected with sarkanda till the risk of frost is over. In this way we can get an early tomato crop. Similarly, tomato and chilli nurseries are grown under polythene sheets during winter. During the day the sheets are removed and put back at night. These nurseries are ready to transplant in February, when the risk of frost is over. This gives an early crop.
Cucurbits: Cucurbits like muskmelon, watermelon and bottlegourd can be produced 15-20 days early by raising the seedlings in polythene bags rather than by direct seeding in the field. Take white polythene bags (15 x 10 cm, l00 gauge), make proper holes on the lower base of the bags and fill with a mixture of soil and rotten farmyard manure in equal proportion. Five to six kg of bags are required to raise seedlings for an acre. The seed should be sown in the last week of January, not deeper than 1.5 cm. The bags should be placed near a wall facing the sun to protect them from frost. Water daily in the afternoon, preferably with a sprinkling can. Transplanting should be done by February- end or the first week of March, when the seedlings are 25-30 days old and have two true leaves. Two days before transplanting stop watering the bags. When transplanting, give a cut on the side of the bag and remove it. The attached earth should not be allowed to break and placed very carefully. Irrigate immediately after this. The advantages of this procedure are that the crop gets ready 15-20 days early, less seed is required, the plant density in the field remains high, risk of red pumpkin beetle attack is minimised.
Kharif onion: The PAU has recommended the growing of onion in the kharif season. It can be grown by either nursery-raising or from bulb sets. For nursery-raising, sow 5 kg of seed in mid-June while for bulb set production raise nursery in mid-March. Due to high temperature in June, often there is failure of nurseries. Therefore, bulb set production is more advantageous.
To raise bulb set for an acre, sow 5 kg of seed in a bed of 8 maralas in mid-March. The soil should be mixed with manure. The plot should be level and the nursery beds prepared accordingly. Treat the seed before sowing with 3 g Captan/ Thiram per kg of seed. Sow seeds 1 to 2 cm deep in lines 5 cm apart. The seeds should be covered with a thin layer of farmyard manure and irrigate immediately after sowing. Irrigate the seedlings twice a week. In the last week of June, uproot the bulb sets and store in a well-ventilated dry room in fruit baskets. Plant these bulb sets in the field in the second half of August. The bulb crop would be ready for harvesting by November-end, when the price of the onion is very high.