Archive for the ‘Agriculture’ Category

Kokum fruit has high marketing potential..

May 2, 2017

After jackfruit, it is encouraging to see kokum fruit too get some attention too. Also really nice to see a common name behind both these initiatives: Shrre Padre of Adike Pathrike.

Squash, juice, ointment, jam, multi-purpose powder — all value added products made from Kokum — attracted visitors at the first Kokum Mela of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi at Muliya village, near Vitla, on Monday.

Dried Kokum rind and a spicy value added product of Kokum were among the other attractions. The ointment was made from Kokum butter. 

Adike Pathrike, a farm monthly, Puttur; Halasu Snehi Koota, Neerkaje; and Western Ghats Kokum Foundation jointly organised the mela.Speaking at the workshop to highlight the scope for marketing Kokum and its value added products, Shree Padre, Executive Editor, Adike Pathrike, likened the fruit to “Kalpa Vruksha”.Mr. Padre said that probably only 30 % of Kokum available in the Konkan belt was being used now for making value added products or for direct consumption. Marketing potential for the fruit was high.

Somashekara B.S., author of Garcinia Brothers, said that as Kokum has three major attractive colours — red, yellow and green, the scope for marketing was high. Mr. Somashekar said that there was high scope for Kokum hybridisation.

He said that fruit vendors showcased fruits such as apple better in stalls by giving least priority for wild fruits and local fruits during season. Sometimes, they even kept local and wild fruits on the floor.

One got introduced to Kokam Sharbat on Mumbai’s local train stations and always looked forward to drinking the same. It was really refreshing and provided respite from Mumbai heat.

But how all these local fruits have been lost to fancier varieties.


History of Kiwi fruit: combines considerable luck and a stroke of marketing genius.

February 13, 2017

This is a fascinating article which points how Kiwis were actually Chinese gooseberries which somehow came to NZ. Then one of the firms renamed it to Kiwi fruit as its shape resembled the Kiwi bird of NZ. Then it just took off:

Historical consensus — as presented on New Zealand’s official history website — suggests that the first seeds arrived on New Zealand at the turn of the 20th century.

It all began in 1904, when Mary Isabel Fraser, the principal of an all-girls school, brought back some Chinese gooseberry seeds from China. They were then given to a farmer named Alexander Allison who, planted them in his farm near the riverine town of Whanganui. The trees went on to bear their first fruit in 1910.

New Zealand’s appropriation of the Chinese gooseberry wasn’t inevitable. Around the same time the first seeds were introduced to New Zealand, the species was in fact also experimented with as a commercial crop both in the U.K. and the U.S., wrote New Zealand plant physiologist Ross Ferguson, one of the world’s top kiwifruit researchers, for Arnoldia, the magazine of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum.

But, as luck would have it, neither the British nor the American attempt at commercializing the fruit was as fruitful. For example, the first batch of seeds brought to Britain’s Veitch Nursery all produced male plants, thwarting the growers’ plans to produce edible fruit. The same fate befell the U.S. government’s attempt. “It seems ironic that the sending of seed by a missionary to an amateur gardener should eventually lead to a new horticultural industry, when the efforts of the Veitch Nursery and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were so much less successful,” Ferguson remarked in his 1983 essay.

The gooseberry’s rebranding didn’t happen until almost 50 years after Allison’s trees bore fruit, according to New Zealand’s official history, when agricultural exporter Turners & Growers started calling their U.S.-bound Chinese gooseberries “kiwifruits” on June 15, 1959.

The fruit’s importer told Turners & Growers that the Chinese gooseberry needed a new name to be commercially viable stateside, to avoid negative connotations of “gooseberries,” which weren’t particularly popular. After passing over another proposed name, melonette, it was finally decided to name the furry, brown fruit after New Zealand’s furry, brown, flightless national bird. It also helped that Kiwis had become the colloquial term for New Zealanders by the time.

Demand for the fruit started to take off, and by the 1970s, the name kiwifruit took root across the Chinese gooseberry trade, cementing its popular imagination as the quintessential New Zealand product. All this happened while China was busy tearing its own social fabric to pieces, during the decade of terror that was the Cultural Revolution.

“I think it was a matter of luck and suitable climate” that the fruit thrived in New Zealand, Ferguson tells TIME. Now an honorary fellow at the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research, he helped classify the Actinidia deliciosa — the furry, green kiwifruit — as a separate species in the 1980s.

In a twist of irony, Chinese are both the largest producers of Kiwifruit and also think the fruit as foreign..

This is amazing. To see kiwi originate in china is quite similar when people in India are told that potatoes came from Portugal.

Meet the Kerala journalist leading a global campaign to put jackfruit on our dinner tables

January 31, 2017

This is a great story of Mr. Shree Padre, exactly the kind which make your day. These are unsung individuals who are making amazing contrbutions in their own way. Mr Padre is a founding editor of Adike Patrike, journal on arecanut farming:

Living continents apart, Miriam Martinez Joya and Shyamanna have little in common but their deep and abiding love for the humble jackfruit. Joya, a California-based entrepreneur, drives her jackfruit truck selling value-added jackfruit products every day, while Shyamanna, a practicing doctor, steals time away from his patients to care for the thousands of jackfruit trees growing in his orchard in Devanahalli, on the outskirts of Bengaluru.

Those who would consider such passion for a fruit misplaced, should meet Joya and Shyamanna’s inspiration – a man named Shree Padre who has become a self-appointed global campaigner for jackfruit in Swarga, Kerala.

At 61, Padre describes himself as “a farmer by profession and a journalist by obsession”. Padre is the founding editor of Areca News – later re-branded as Adike Patrike or the Areca nut magazine – a Kannada publication aimed at educating farmers. Though the magazine once primarily focused on areca nut farming, it came as no surprise to anyone who knew Padre, when Adike Patrike began to publish stories on jackfruit from 2006 – the year Padre took it upon himself to bring the fruit back into the limelight.

He says jackfruit is the ultimate Kalpavriksha, a tree whose every part is useful..

Superb coverage..

The Dizzying Grandeur of 21st-Century Agriculture

October 14, 2016

This is just an amazing photo essay on what 21st century agriculture looks like atleast in some places if not all of them (HT: MR blog).

Our industrialized food system nourishes more people, at lower cost, than any comparable system in history. It also exerts a terrifyingly massive influence on our health and our environment. Photographer George Steinmetz spent nearly a year traveling the country to capture that system, in all its scope, grandeur and dizzying scale. His photographs are all the more remarkable for the fact that so few large food producers are willing to open themselves to this sort of public view.

Amazing pictures of cranberry fields, Turkeys (scary actually to see just one person amidst so many birds), calves and so on. Must watch..

Globalized fruit, local entrepreneurs: How one banana exporting country achieved worldwide reach

October 14, 2016

An interesting book review on history and growth of Ecuador banana industry.

Role of geography was  just crucial:

Ecuador’s many assets for having a successful industry are also identified. It has optimal soils for growing the fruit, an appropriate and relatively storm-free climate (bananas are easily damaged by strong winds), and an ample labor force already living in the lowland regions that would become the country’s banana zones. In addition, it had just experienced the failure of its prior primary export crop, cacao, adding some urgency to the interest in switching to bananas on the part of many farmers.

Another unique dimension of the Ecuadorean industry is its relatively late beginning. The country’s location on the west coast of South America had been the biggest deterrent to the successful export of the fruit prior to 1914 when the Panama Canal opened. While Colombia and Central American exporters all had Caribbean coasts through which their exports could pass, Ecuador’s trading links to Europe and most of North America involved an arduous voyage around the southern tip of the continent. The canal alleviated that necessity and, while adding on the expense of the canal toll, it allowed Ecuadorean bananas to be competitive in foreign markets. The country first attempted to develop a banana export industry in the 1930s but the Great Depression and the ensuing world war caused major reductions in global demand for the fruit. Instead, the industry got its real start in the late 1940s and took off during the first half of the following decade when Ecuador became the world’s leading exporter of the fruit, a position it continues to occupy. The late start actually worked to its benefit as it was able to learn from the problems confronted by its competitors in the region to its north. That helped both its entrepreneurs and its government make better choices, while also taking advantage of the U.S. Consent Decree of 1958, an anti-monopoly measure that required United Fruit to divest many of its landholdings in Latin America.


Foremost among Ecuador’s distinctive characteristics is the prior existence of an important port city, Guayaquil (now the country’s largest city). Guayaquil has played a significant role from the colonial period on and, in the process, fostered the development of entrepreneurial skills of many of its residents. These were largely in place by the time bananas became a major export commodity for the country in the 1950s. The city spawned several entrepreneurs who would be instrumental in the development of the banana industry. The most notable among these was Luis Noboa. His story, recounted at length throughout the book, was a classic rags-to-riches tale of a driven man who became Ecuador’s wealthiest man and whose firm ultimately became its largest banana trading company (and the fourth largest in the world).

Fascinating to know all this…

Agriculture linked to trade is as old and as modern as it can get..

An APMC tale: why market design matters

September 28, 2016

Nice piece by Niranjan Rajadhyaksha of Mint.

He says APMC were designed with the right intent but have eventually got caught up with similar troubles it was expected to address:


Figuring origins of our food and globalization in our food supply

August 12, 2016

This is a superb piece based on this research.

The authors track where most of our foods come from and how much of our food supply is globalised. On an average in most countries around 70% of food come from elsewhere. There are images and maps to figure all this interesting bit:


Despite crash in prices, coconuts still costly for consumer in Karnataka

July 4, 2016

When this blog posted about urgent need to inform and communicate about agricultural sector, these are the kind of developments one was talking about.

Apparently, there has been a surge in cocnut supply in Karnataka leading to drop in prices at wholesale level. But you guessed it -Consumers continue to pay high prices:


Reviving the litchi fruit before it becomes a symbol of inequality

May 20, 2015

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..

How Indian family diets have changed over the years..

May 15, 2015

Nice article by Vignesh Radhakrishnan of Hindustan Times.

He looks at how Indians diet patterns have changed since 1960s:

In the last 50 years, India’s population has surged, its food policies have been revised multiple times and the influence of western products on our eating habits has increased significantly, but the primary diet of Indian families has remained mostly vegetarian.

While our calorie intake has increased over the years and the sources of our vegetarian foods have changed, the percentage of meat consumption has not gone up comparatively. According to National Geographic, next to Rwanda and Ethiopia, Indians have consumed less meat per person than any other country.

According to United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, any diet can be divided into the following 6 groups – grain (rice, wheat, maize, other cereals), dairy and eggs (eggs, milk, animal fats), plant produce (vegetables, fruits, starchy roots), meat (beef, pork, poultry, seafood, other meat), sugar and fat (sugar and sweeteners, vegetable oils, oil crops, sugar crops), others (pulses, alcoholic beverages).

Let us look at how the diet of Indian families changed in the last 5 decades. In 1961, an average Indian family member consumed 2,010 calories in a day. It grew to 2,458 calories in 2011. According to the graphic, while our grain intake reduced from 63% to 57% (6 percentage points decrease) of the total intake in the past 5 decades, consumption of dairy, eggs and plant produce doubled. Our sugar and fat intake also increased by 3 percentage points.  However, our meat consumption remained the same – 1% of the total intake – in these 50 years.

It goes to show that as our economy gathered momentum, a part of our population started spending more on these products and spent less on grains.

Let us now compare India’s data with the world average.  In 1961, an average world family member consumed 2,184 calories in a day which grew to 2,874 calories in 2011. Though grain intake reduced by 4 percentage points and plant produce and dairy and eggs intake went down by 1 percentage point each, sugar and fat consumption went up by 4 percentage points. As per the graphic, the world meat intake increased from 6% in 1961 to 9% in 2011 – an increase of 3 percentage points.

Thus, as the economy grew in the past 50 years, families around the world reduced their consumption of grain, dairy, eggs, plant produce and started spending more on meat, sugar and fat intake.

At the same time, Indian families reduced only their grain intake and started spending more on dairy, eggs, plant produce, sugar and fats. And there was no change in our meat intake.

It has useful graphics to look at the changes as well..

Hey French people, send your crops here..

November 10, 2014

Atlantic has this news over how French farmers became angry and destroyed so much crop. Reason falling prices of their crops:


The decline of honeybees and its impact on agriculture..

September 10, 2014

Nice post by Julian Lee of WB. That too on a topic which we hardly discuss and think about.

He says how decline of honeybee population is leading to decline in agri prospects:


Ricardo on Orissa-West Bengal potato/vegetable trade..

August 27, 2014

India and its politics is interesting and bizarre at most times.

I am not sure how many of us are following the Orisaa/West Bengal crisis on trading of potatoes and vegetables.

Apparently. Orissa supplies veggies to WB and latter supplies potatoes to Orisaa. Just like Ricardo’s example, it seems WB has comparative adv over potatoes and Orissa over veggies. The two states specialise in their comp adv and trade with each other. Win win for both as our text-books suggest.

Alas, the reality is not as simple. There are lot of other considerations which influence trade and it is not just economics.


Gujarat’s agriculture growth – what is the real story?

April 24, 2014

Came across this piece in ToI by Prof. Ashok Gulati, the eminent agriculture economist. I wish more agri econs wrote for media as there is much to know and learn. Instead of the usual macro jumbo-mumbo the media guys should actively seek scholars who do research on real issues.

Anyways, Prof. Gulati says if there is anything to learn from Gujarat’s story, it is agri performance. More than Gujarat, the blogger is interested in the agri story:


Why don’t Indian farmers grow more fruits and vegetables?

January 31, 2013

A brilliant post by Dr. Richa Govil of Ashoka India on IFMR’s BLog.

She asks why farmers don’t grow fruits and veggies over cereals?


Anatomy of coping: evidence from people living through the crises of 2008-11

June 15, 2012

A nice paper on the topic.


National Food Security Bill: A discussion

December 28, 2011

This is the title of my new paper. It look at the economics of the bill and the debates so far.

Comments/suggestions are always welcome..

Agricultural Productivity and Credit- Issues and Way Forward

September 13, 2011

Nice speech on the topic by Dr. K. C. Chakrabarty, Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India.

Issues of low agri productivity have been known for a long time. This one just helps know more and has some nice tables and graphs. Summary:

I feel that instead of lamenting that productivity has been low, we must look at the past to the Green Revolution in the 1960s to draw confidence that productivity can be improved. We need to find ways to surmount the existing constraints and step up productivity using finance as a tool. The Green Revolution paved the way for food security in India. No major technological breakthrough has emerged since then, and with the need for higher production growing, a second green revolution is inevitable. In fact, to borrow a term coined by Prof Swaminathan, we need an evergreen revolution. However, to cater to the food security and food safety net, India needs a higher production along with enhanced productivity in cereals, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables, poultry, meat, fish and milk.


Reasons for Food Insecurity: Malthus or Domestic Policy?

August 2, 2011

This is a superb note from Cullen Hendrix of College of William & Mary.

There are two major reasons cited for food insecurity:

  • Revisiting Malthusian ideas: food insecurity is because of high population growth and limited resources.
  • Food sovereignty: The problem is international food markets. Countries should focus on national food sufficiency and not really bother about international trading.

He says both views are overblown:

This brief assesses the claims of these two groups. The focus should be to build international food markets:


3 I’s of agriculture growth – Investments, institutions, incentives

March 17, 2011

Ashok Gulati who was earlier at IFPRI is one of the eminent agriculture economists and thinkers on the subject. He has just been made chief of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, a position which could have been given earlier. May be we could have more reforms and action on agriculture front.

He gives a superb interview in Financial Express:

How do we deal with the agriculture crisis?