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Gujarat emerges as 'exotic' fruit and vegetable stop

Gujarat emerges as 'exotic' fruit and vegetable stop

Publication: The Economic Times
Date: July 12, 2008
URL: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/quickiearticleshow/3225250.cms

The arid land of Gujarat is turning into a bowl of exotic fruit and vegetables. Taking a step aside from growing conventional crops like groundnut and cotton, a section of the farmers have opted to grow "premium" varieties to suit both the local and global pallets.

Seedless Taiwanese papayas, black tomatoes, violet capsicum, sugarfree potatoes, cashews, square-shaped watermelons are the new introductions in the state's agri basket. Farmers are beaming with the gamut of exotic fruits and vegetables churning out a combined turnover of Rs 3,400 crore per annum.

If decades back farmers used to weep over their misfortune due to lack of monsoon, now they are riding on the wave of success after technological interventions in the crops and their fields changed the landscape of the region.

Seedless, multicoloured, attractive and better tasting variety of fruits and vegetables are now in offing, thanks to IT intervention across fields.Agri consultant Jitu Pansuria observes that Gujarat could emerge as the hub of exotic fruits and vegetables because of its farmers who dared to take risks.

"Farmers have not feared to experiment with various fruits and vegetables alien to the land. For those who saw consecutive drought in Kutch and Saurashtra, hiccups like crop failure or lack of infrastructure did not deter them.

In fact, farmers dared to bring in exotic varieties to the state to make things happen for them," said Pansuria, who runs Darshan Farms and Nursery in Limdi (Surendranagar district). He was consultant to several farmers who had no inhibitions to attempt Taiwanese papaya and bananas in the parched lands of Saurashtra.

"You will not get to hear instances of farmers' suicide in the region simply because farmers have shunned traditional methods of irrigation and have taken to IT and science. The 'lab to farm' concept has made things clicked in this state. Drip irrigation and IT has turned fortunes of the farmers," he added.

With the pattern of agriculture in the region revolutionised to a great extent, it is not surprising to find the likes of 22-year-old Ompriya Patel, daughter of builder-turned-entrepreneur Chabil Patel, who has travelled all the way from Mandvi (Kutch) to The University of Queensland in Australia to pursue a course in horticulture.

Chabil Patel has taken to dates cultivation recently across 200 acres of land in Kutch and expects his daughter to bring modern agri-science to his fields.

The state has brought close to 11 lakh hectare under horticulture, said director (agriculture) S R Chaudhry. "From contributing negligible to the state's agri turnover of Rs 9000 crore in 2001-02 , horticulture now contributes 10-15 % of Rs 34,000 crore agri turnover," he added.

If the small and medium farmers experimented with the exotic varieties, those in the backward regions of the state did not stay behind to throw challenge in "premium" cashews.

Having brought 6,000 hectares under cashew cultivation, the farmers in the socio-economically backward region of Valsad and Dangs districts have taken on competitors from Goa. This year, the region is expected to produce a record 14,000 tonne of cashewnut.

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