Constraints of growers
The important constraints are listed below:
i. The average Indian farmer is poor and is unable to invest in high quality planting material and also not fully aware of modern agro-economic practices. The productivity is, therefore, quit poor.
ii. High quality planting material is not always available in sufficient quantities.
iii. The existence of long marketing channel with a large number of middlemen results in low returns to the growers.
iv. The storage and transport infrastructure is highly inadequate resulting in high post-harvest wastage and losses.
v. The average Indian farmer is hesitant to take up horticulture which requires high investments, long gestation periods and uncertain returns.
Constraints of processors/industry/exporters
The major constraints are as follows:
i. The quality of fruits and vegetables is not uniform. This affects the quality of processed output and the acceptability by the consumers, especially in the international markets. The poor quality also leads to high costs of processing.
ii. The domestic demand for processed products is quite low due to seasonal availability of some fresh fruits or vegetables through out the year.
iii. The processing industry ha to depend on a large number of small growers to procure the raw materials. It is difficult to develop exclusive captive sources of raw materials due to the land ceiling act. The industry faces operational difficulties in obtaining raw materials of desirable standards and quality from a large number of growers.
Constraints of consumers
The foremost constraint is the high cost of processed fruits and vegetables. Apart from the cost of raw materials and conversion costs, the high level of taxes on packaging materials and the various state levies contribute to the high costs faced by the consumers.
Current status of technology
The technologies currently used for different post-harvest operations are:
i. Harvesting: Mostly by hands or neither the help of hand tools such as clippers, scissors, etc.
ii. Sorting/Grading: Very limited. Mostly by visual inspection. Some large marketing agencies use weight based grading systems.
iii. Precooling: Limited facilities (forced draught type) for grapes, strawberries, etc. and mainly for export purposes.
iv. Packaging: mostly bamboo baskets and wooden boxes for domestic markets and corrugated fibre board (CFB) for exports. Controlled atmosphere (CA)/Modified Atmosphere (MA) packaging technology is available, but not used commercially.
v. Transportation: Mostly open vehicles. Limited use of refrigerated vehicles and trains which are mainly earmarkd for exports.
vi. Storage: Mostly ventilated storage used at the farm level. Use of cold storage at mandis is very limited.
Technologies used for processing
There are large variations in the technologies currently used for processing in the large and small scale units. The small scale units use mostly traditional methods. e.g. manual preparations, air/sun drying, batch pan concentration, etc.
The preparatory activities like grading, sorting, cleaning and slicing are done mostly manually except in a few large units. The large scale units up semi-automatic/ automatic processing units.
Future vision of technology
The present study has carried out a detailed analysis of the scope and potential for introduction of modern technologies at post-harvest and processing stages in the fruits and vegetables sector.
On the basis of this analysis, a detailed action plan has been prepared for the short, medium and long-term strategy for this sector. This action plan is presented in Appendix 3.