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Mumbai, Nov 30 (PTI) Despite horticulture accounting for a third of the total agricultural gross value added, there exists large infrastructure gaps ranging from 8.6 per cent for cold storages to 99.6 per cent in the case of pack houses compared to the production of perishable produces like fruits and vegetables, according to a report.

This is because cold storage capacity has barely kept pace with the requirement, which is clear from the fact that while the horticultural output has grown 45.2 per cent during FY09-18, cold storage capacity has grown only 48.2 per cent, according to the report by India Ratings.

This is because despite horticulture accounting for about one-third of the country’s agricultural gross value added, the public and policy discourses on agriculture is still largely focused on food grain production only.

Horticulture has grown over 45 per cent between FY09 and FY18.

With the rise in household income and shift towards more healthy/balanced diet, demand for horticultural items has been consistently rising. This rising demand is often finding reflection in the high inflation of select horticultural products.

State-wise data show that with 39.25 million tonne of annual production, UP is the largest horticultural producing state accounting for 12.59 per cent of the total production in FY18, followed by Bengal with 10.42 per cent or 32.47 million tonne.

The picture somewhat changes when looked at the state-wise vegetables and fruits production separately. While UP and Bengal continue to hold the top-two positions in terms of vegetable production; when it comes to fruits, Andhra and Maharashtra lead. The other major horticultural producing states are MP, Gujarat, Bihar and Karnataka, said the report.

According to the horticulture statistics division of the Union agriculture ministry, horticultural production reached 331.0 million tonne in FY21 from 320.5 million tonne in FY20. While production of vegetables rose to 197.2 million tonne in FY21 from 101.2 million tonne in FY04, production of fruits more than doubled to 103.0 million tonne from 50.9 million tonnes.

As a result, fruits and vegetables now account for nearly 90 per cent of the horticultural production, as horticultural production rose to 1.07x in FY21 from 0.72x of the total food grain production in FY04. This has the country becoming the second-largest producer of horticultural products in the world.

Both area and increased productivity have helped the country improve its horticultural production over the years. While vegetables, including melons productivity, increased to 14.63 tonne per hectare in 2016 from 12 tonne per hectare in 2002; fruits, excluding melons productivity, increased to 13.03 tonne per hectare from 10.94 tonne per hectare.

Although vegetables productivity was much lower than the global average of 18.86 tonne per hectare in 2016, fruits productivity is comparable to global average of 13.27 tonne/hectare, said the report.

It added that there is still more scope to improve the productivity levels of both in vegetables as well as fruits when compared to some leading vegetables and fruits growing countries.

Though a rise in horticultural production has helped livelihoods across all states, its benefits have been more pronounced in some states such as Himachal Pradesh, which has overtaken Punjab in terms of per-capita income during 2010s. PTI BEN HRS hrs