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2014 GAP Report® – From Field to Fork: Strengthening Value Chains to Boost Productivity and Reduce Food Loss
Across India, farmers, scientists, production managers and policymakers are striving to improve agricultural productivity and reduce spoilage, loss and waste through better technologies, policies and management practices. This section explores some of the ways that the public and private sectors in the country are addressing gaps and making improvements along the value chain.
THE RISE OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES: INTEGRATED VALUE CHAINS INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY
Fruits and vegetables comprise the fastest growing agricultural sector in India, and they now exceed the value of cereals produced.161 Mangos, bananas, potatoes, tomatoes and onions are some of the largest crops. Buying fresh fruits and vegetables from small farms, aggregating the produce and maintaining quality control of perishable foods requires an integrated value chain from producer to customer. To reduce loss and increase shelf-life, most organized fruit and vegetable retail in India consists of processed foods.
At the center of this phenomenon is Jain Irrigation Systems Limited (JISL), an Indian multinational company that manufactures micro- irrigation systems, plastic sheets and pipes and several other products, in addition to providing agricultural inputs and financial services. Through contract farming and technical services for producers, it has developed a large portfolio of processed fruit- and vegetable-based products that are sold internationally and domestically. JISL’s commitment to conserving India’s natural resources and serving the needs of farmers as well as customers permeates its approach to agricultural development.
JISL is the largest manufacturer of mango pulp, puree and concentrate in India and sells 60 percent of its pulp production to Coca-Cola for fruit drinks. The company contracts with farmers to procure mangos and, in partnership with Coca-Cola, is introducing Ultra High Density Plantation (UHDP) mango planting to its contract farmers, a sustainable method for increasing production. Mango grafts of commercial varieties are planted at very close spacing of (3mx1m or 3mx2m) to attain good growth quickly. Orchards start commercial production from the third year onwards, twice as fast as traditional plantings. Up to 600 trees can be planted per acre compared to the conventional 40 trees per acre. JISL is teaching farmers special techniques for pruning trees to increase the density of branches and shoots and to obtain maximum light interception, which spurs growth. This is combined with drip irrigation, which provides the precise amount of water needed. The UHDP method produces very high yields and significantly higher income for farmers per acre.
JISL also manufactures dehydrated onions and other vegetables at a large, state-of-the-art facility in Jalgaon, Maharashtra, close to the fields where most of its vegetables are sourced. The area has rain during the June to September monsoon, then a prolonged dry season with high evaporation levels. Groundwater is typically pumped for flood irrigation of fields, but this has led to overuse and reduction of groundwater. Concerned about the rate of water extraction, JISL advocates drip irrigation to its producers because it is more precise, reduces evaporation loss and will not over-tax groundwater resources. A water footprint assessment conducted by JISL and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), with support from The Nature Conservancy and Limno Tech, indicated that micro-irrigation, as well as water harvesting and aquifer recharging projects, would be a good way to prevent overdraft.162
In addition, JISL supplies high quality seeds to growers and buys vegetables grown on contract, generating good income for farmers on small parcels of land. Onions are manually harvested at the peak of maturity, flavor and taste and quickly transported to the processing facility, with minimal losses. After milling, the products are packed in bags that are sealed and put in boxes, which are stored at low temperature and low humidity and then supplied to customers throughout the world. Elaborate marking, labeling and recording systems ensure complete traceability.
ONTRACT FARMING: CONNECTING FARMERS AND AGRIBUSINESS TO MARKET FRESH VEGETABLES
An estimated 30 percent of fruits and vegetables grown in India are lost or wasted annually due to gaps in the cold chain — the temperature- controlled supply chain required to maintain freshness and quality of produce.163 Inefficient methods of picking and packing fruits and vegetables result in more losses.164 Without on-farm technology and training and links to well-organized value chains, Indian farmers miss opportunities to market their fresh produce and increase their incomes. Agribusiness will not be interested in investing if it cannot secure sufficient, continuous quantities of produce that meet their quality specifications.
With an eye toward implementing contract farming as a solution, the Convergence of Agricultural Interventions in Maharashtra (CAIM), supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Sir Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT), facilitated the linkage between a cluster of smallholder farmers living in the Akola District of Maharashtra and FieldFresh Foods Pvt. Ltd., a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and Del Monte Pacific Limited.165 FieldFresh Foods was established in 2004 with the purpose of exporting India’s fresh produce to world markets. The Akola District has a good climate and growing conditions for vegetables, but before the project the district was not connected to good marketing systems, which meant crops that could not be sold and consumed locally were often lost.
For the 2012 to 2013 season, FieldFresh Foods entered into contracts with 100 Akola district farmers and started providing technical assistance for the production of baby sweet corn on 100 acres of land for export to the United Kingdom. Freshfield Foods managed the process to assure that farmers’ harvests would be aligned with the schedule of deliveries to UK stores and the size and shape of the baby corn would meet the buyers’ specifications. The company supplied hybrid seed, advised farmers when they should plant and apply nutrients, and provided access to technical and extension services. Only certain pest prevention products were allowed and residual levels were measured after harvest to make sure they met UK standards.
When a farmer picked the corn, it was put in a bag labeled with her/his name. The cobs were transported six hours that evening to the packhouse, where they were immediately chilled for six hours. Cobs meeting the standards were then shucked and packed, transported by air to Mumbai (3.5 hours) and then to the UK (9 hours). Depending on output, a farmer’s income for one crop was $330 to $527 per acre with additional revenue from selling the plant stalks for livestock fodder.
FieldFresh has 15 percent of the UK market for baby corn and plans to expand there and in other European markets. It is quadrupling the area under production in Akola District for the 2013 to 2014 season and also plans to work with farmers to plant chilies and asparagus for export.
PREVENTING LOSS IN THE PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM
Nearly one percent of India’s GDP was spent on the government’s Public Distribution System (PDS) in 2012,166 and researchers estimate that 40 percent of the grains in the system are lost before the food reaches the beneficiaries.167 In 2001, the State of Chhattisgarh, which has relatively higher poverty and food insecurity levels than the rest of India, started implementing a series of reforms to reduce losses and to assure each eligible household receives its full complement of benefits. Surveys indicate that the reforms had an impact and the PDS there is now operating more transparently and efficiently.168
The first reforms were centered on the way Chhattisgarh obtained its PDS commodities. Starting in 2002, rather than receiving rice and wheat from the central government to use in the PDS, the state government began buying those commodities from local farmers at the minimum support price and was reimbursed by the central government. Once the state had control over its commodity budget, it was able to buy much more grain than it previously received from the central government.169
In addition, the state government improved the efficiency and transparency of Fair Price Shops (FPSs) where PDS food grains are sold, requiring that FPSs be operated by local village or town governments, cooperative societies, self-help groups or forest protection committees. Records were computerized, electronic weighing machines were introduced to measure rations and lists of ration card holders were publically displayed. All transactions had to be disclosed to local government bodies and the shops were subject to inspections and social audits.
By 2010, nearly 95 percent of beneficiaries surveyed reported receiving their full grain rations and indicated that they were pleased with the new system.170 In a study of the reforms, the USDA Economic Research Service found that from 1999–2000 to 2009–2010, the average number of calories consumed from PDS grains in Chhattisgarh increased significantly.171 Unfortunately, after the economic shocks of the second half of the decade, these gains began to pale in comparison to the increased need for food assistance, thereby clouding the picture regarding which safety net approaches effectively improve nutrition and food security of the poor. The Chhattisgarh government is now experimenting with selling onions and potatoes at FPSs at wholesale prices, which would be supplied by women’s self-help groups, bypassing the market middlemen who collect commission fees.172
AIRTIGHT STORAGE PREVENTS POST-HARVEST SPOILAGE
Hermetic storage (HS) technology has emerged as a significant alternative to other methods of storage for crops and a range of agricultural commodity products that protect them from insects and molds. Among the advantages of hermetic storage is the generation of a modified atmosphere within the container eliminating the need for chemical treatments, fumigants, and climate control.
The rapid growth in adoption of HS is due to the increasing demand for safe and sustainable technologies that are simple to use and reasonably priced. Some HS units are characterized by their ease of installation and additional benefits such as protection from pests and rodents, favorable costs, ease of relocation, and very modest requirements for infrastructure.
In India, spices are a rising high value commodity, for both consumption in India as well as regional and global export. HS products developed by GrainPro Inc., are used to help ensure preservation of high quality, high value spices. Hermetic storage preserves and maintains the aroma and flavor of such commodities as coriander, turmeric, red chili pepper, coffee, cocoa and basmati rice. Indian companies like Jayanti Spices, Sresta Natural Bioproducts, Pravin Masalewale, Fern Spices & Pickles, Arvind Ltd, Suminter Organic Foods and many others have been using GrainPro Cocoons™ for storing and fumigating their spices organically. Cocoons have not only helped them to control infestation but also have helped them to preserve the aroma and flavor of spices for short and long duration while keeping optimal moisture levels.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
From Field to Fork: Strengthening Value Chains to Boost Productivity and Reduce Food Loss