CDP can transform the entire horticulture ecosystem

Dr. Pritam Kalia, Former ICAR Emeritus Scientist, Head & Professor Vegetable Science and Coordinator School of Horticulture Sciences, IARI opines that horticulture Cluster Development Programme can improve the sector’s global competitiveness by building last-mile connectivity with the use of multi-modal transport for the efficient and timely evacuation and transport of horticulture produce.

IBT: Recently, the government has zeroed in on 12 districts under its horticulture Cluster Development Programme (CDP). What benefits will this have for the stakeholders – farmers & exporters in the country?

Dr. Pritam Kalia: Farmers will be benefitted through creation of cluster-specific brands to link them into national and global value chains, bringing higher remuneration. Small and marginal farmers will have better access to market through CDP. Farmers will have assured price for their produce. They will have assured availability of quality inputs at nominal price, enhancing their profitability. Farmers will have access to quality planting material of variety approved for production. There would be significant implication on rural development as it will create local jobs, prevent rural exodus and promote rural tourism.

Meanwhile, exporters will get quality produce to be exported to importing countries, produced based on their requirement. Brand value will help them stand competitiveness and stay in the market. They will have quantum of product from clusters available for export with desired quality of the import market.

IBT: How can CDP help in boosting the global competitiveness of the Indian horticulture industry? Which international benchmarks can the country seek an inspiration from in this regard? What can Indian horticultural clusters learn from them?

Dr. Pritam Kalia: The horticulture Cluster Development Programme has a huge potential to transform the entire horticulture ecosystem. It can improve its global competitiveness by building last-mile connectivity with the use of multimodal transport for the efficient and timely evacuation and transport of horticulture produce. It can also be a vehicle for the implementation of production requirements to get quality produce as per requirement of international markets. Following are some international benchmarks based on UNIDO cluster and network development projects being implemented across the globe to seek inspiration from:

  • Cluster intervention in Ghana: implementing the concept of UNIDO’s “5 CS for competitiveness”
  • Creating export consortia in Colombia’s agri-business and cosmetics clusters in the Valle del Cauca
  • Boosting cluster development by promoting typical Agri-food and Terroir products (Project Pampat)
  • The UNIDO integrated cluster approach: linking agro-food, tourism and creative industries
  • Supporting women’s cooperatives compliance to the food safety standards in the Argan oil cluster of Morocco (Project Pampat)

IBT: How can the horticulture CDP be aligned with some of the other schemes of the government such as GI tags, Agriculture Infrastructure Fund and Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH)? What can be the plausible pros and cons of this move?

Dr. Pritam Kalia: Since horticulture CDP is a regional/geographical concentration of targeted horticultural crops, it can be very well aligned with GI tags because they also are regional and have geographical specialization. They have role in improving profitability for the farmers, which is primarily influenced by reputation and quality of product, market size and degree of competition, consumer perception and demand elasticity. Geographical indications provide an effective platform for obtaining premium market price.

GI would realize higher returns in global markets and establishing effective agricultural brands can help farmers gain a competitive advantage in “buyer-driven” global markets. At the same time, GI helps consumers get quality products of desired traits and protect them from deception. The qualities and uniqueness of the product create an image in the eye of consumers. So, the product becomes a brand for consumer. It also serves as an export booster by providing legal protection and enables seeking legal protection in other WTO member countries.

Also Agricultural Infrastructure Fund, is a medium – long term financing facility for investment in projects for post-harvest management infrastructure and community farming assets. It will leverage the central sector scheme of the Ministry for formation and promotion of 10,000 Farmers Producer Organizations (FPOs) so as to avoid duplicity of infrastructure at same place. MIDH is a centrally sponsored scheme for holistic growth of the horticulture sector in the country for planting material, cold storage facility, reefer trucks, ripening chambers etc. However, since there will be Cluster Development Authorities (CDAs) here for implementing clusters, some balance has to be stricken by NHB for judicious use of resources.

IBT: CDP seeks to attract an estimated investment of Rs 10,000 crore across all the 53 districts. What can be done to achieve this target and accentuate the ease of doing agriculture in the nation?

Dr. Pritam Kalia: Doubling farmers’ income is one of the biggest priorities of Government of India. CDP will benefit about 10 lakh farmers and related stakeholders of the value chain. With this programme, the Govt. aims to improve exports of the targeted crops by approx. 20% and create cluster-specific brands to enhance the competitiveness of cluster crops.

The country should focus on catering to the global demand to attract investments. India is the second-largest producer of horticulture crops globally, accounting for approximately 12% of the world’s production of fruits and vegetables. Due to its high remunerative capability, the horticulture sector has emerged as one of the potential agriculture enterprises that will accelerate the growth of the Indian economy.

Since India has varied climatic conditions including soil, water, environment suitable for almost all types of horticulture crops grown around the world, therefore emphasis to grow globally popular exotic fruits can be given, besides indigenous niche horticulture crops, especially fruits and spices can also be taken up to meet out domestic  and exotic demand.

Joint ventures with private sector can also be established in the following:

  1. Hybrid seeds of vegetable crops.
  2. Greenhouse technologies
  3. Biopesticides
  4. Micro propagation & tissue culture
  5. Export of Fresh fruits and Vegetables
  6. Export of processed fruits and vegetable products.
  7. Micro irrigation

IBT: How can CDP help in promoting sustainable agriculture/circular economy?

Dr. Pritam Kalia: Through ensuring quality of the produce and value chain, CDP can facilitate the journey towards sustainable/circular economy. CDP by combining local knowledge and traditional with modern technology will strive at increasing  yield  and quality, while significantly decreasing requirements for resources such as water, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides etc.

Clusters facilitate the sustainable upgrading of small and medium enterprises and encourage the participation of stakeholders in the process of sustainable development. Further, there will be smarter and sustainable development by succeeding in technological and scientific results and by connecting local firms into world-class value systems. Thus, promoting knowledge creation, joint learning, technology transfer, as well as collaboration, and sustainable innovations will also be crucial here.

Dr. Pritam Kalia obtained B. Sc. (Agri.), M. Sc. (Vegetable Science) degrees from HPU, Shimla and Ph. D. (Vegetable Science) from Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishvavidyalaya, Palampur, HP. He did his post doctorate on Commonwealth Scholarship of the Great Britain from the then National Vegetable Research Station (NVRS) later known as Horticultural Research International, Wellesbourne (UK) and now part and parcel of University of Warwick, UK.

During his career spanning over nearly 37 years, Dr. Kalia contributed significantly in the area of vegetable crops improvement having developed 32 varieties of different vegetable crops. His major contributions are in exotic vegetables, nutraceutical and resistance breeding and genetic mechanisms facilitating hybrid breeding in cauliflower and carrot. Dr. Kalia is credited with introduction of new vegetable crops in India such as broccoli, leek developing their indigenous varieties and popularized them.

Dr. Kalia has published more than 110 research papers in journals of repute. Dr. Kalia has guided 5 M. Sc. and six Ph.D. students. Three of his PhD students were awarded Jawaharlal Nehru award for best thesis He is Fellow of National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), Indian Society of Vegetable Science (ISVS) and Indian Academy of Horticulture Sciences (IAHS). Views expressed are personal.

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