Reviving the litchi fruit before it becomes a symbol of inequality

It was just shocking to hear prices of litchis costing Rs 250 per kg in Bangalore.  The prices of fruits have increased significantly in last years. So much so, one wonders whether mango people will be able to consume mangoes and other fruits in future? Or fruit consumption like Picassos, will be seen as a sign of inequality in future?

Surinder Sud has an article on improving litchi fruit’s domestic trade and enhance India’s share in the global litchi market. Leave global markets, first make it accessible and affordable for domestic consumers:

is one of those fruits that don’t get as much attention as they should. It has substantial export potential, much of which remains untapped. Its domestic marketing, too, is riddled with formidable problems – primarily because of its transient shelf life – which are detrimental to both the producers and consumers.

India enjoys some inherent advantages over other major litchi exporting countries in terms of geographic location and the timing of the fruit availability. Besides, the country also grows some good quality litchis with distinct flavour and high pulp-to-stone ratio, which are preferred in foreign markets. Indian litchis are harvested between mid-April and June-end when good quality stuff is not available from any other litchi exporting country, barring Thailand. It doesn’t, therefore, have to compete with countries such as Madagascar, South Africa and Australia, where the litchi crop is marketed between November and February. Nor does it need to vie with Israel, where litchi is harvested from July to October. This leaves the vast litchi markets in the Gulf and Europe for India to exploit, especially during the summer.

However, a lot of constraints need to be overcome to enhance India’s share in the as also to improve its domestic trade. Thanks to its highly perishable nature, litchi needs specialised handling and transportation to ensure its prompt marketing and consumption. The paucity of infrastructure of roads, cold stores, reefer vans and other components of the cold chain management is one of the biggest hurdles in the smooth internal and external trade of litchi. Experts from the Muzaffarpur (Bihar)-based (NRCL) feel that these problems need immediate attention. There is also a need for pack-houses at or near airports for the proper pre-shipment treatment of export consignments. The other limiting factors include poor pre- and post-harvest fruit handling at the field level and the unavailability of reliable market intelligence to the producers.

Commercial production of litchi has traditionally been confined to areas such as Bihar, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Jharkhand. alone, in fact, accounts for nearly half of the country’s total litchi output. In recent years, litchi cultivation has begun to spread to non-traditional litchi growing areas such as Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Tripura and Odisha. Moreover, some of these states have recorded higher crop productivity than that in the conventional litchi belt. The average per hectare output of litchi in Punjab in 2012-13, for instance, was estimated at over 15 tonnes, which was almost double of the output in Bihar. Besides, litchi grown in the Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur areas of Punjab can be exported from the international airport in Amritsar.

Standard stuff on agriculture likely to standard ignorance. Agri in India should be promoted as aggressively as Make in India..

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