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Vegetable Production: Advantages/Limitations

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Vegetable Production: Advantages vs Limitations

Commercial Advantages of growing Vegetables: How growing vegetables benefits farmers:

In today's era of diversification of agriculture, farmers are now shifting from traditional subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture. Land holdings are in general small in our country. This makes a farmer to adopt vegetable production. Reasons for increasing importance and scope of vegetables are:

  • Changing food habits of people and so their food baskets.
  • Increasing awareness of people towards balanced diet and concept of nutritional security.
  • Vegetables produce more biomass per unit area and fetch more prices per unit production so are more economical to grow. Yield of some vegetables with some commonly grown cereals is compared in Table-1.

Table-1: Comparative yield per unit area of vegetables and cereals

Average total yield ( Q/hac.)

Source: Reproduced from Importance of vegetables. (Modern technology of vegetable production.p-5.

  • Proper fitment in farming systems: As vegetables are generally short duration crops, these are suitable for mixed, companion and intercropping.  For example, some of the varieties of okra, radish, brinjal, chilli, and tomato are ready for harvesting within 45 to 60 days after sowing/ planting. This results in high cropping intensity and higher income per unit area.
  • In India, a big portion of farmers falls in marginal categories. Vegetable growing is suitable for small and marginal farmers.
  • Source of supplementary income:  A number of vegetables can be grown successfully as intercrop along with trees. Crop suitable for growing at early stages of planting of orchard are potato, okra, tomato, brinjal, sweet potato, peas and onion etc. For later stages crops that can be taken are Chilli, Palak and ginger. This way a farmer gets more profit from his forest plantation.
  • Employment: Because of involvement of labour, it is source of intensive employment.
  • Export potential: Vegetables have great export potential and source of foreign exchange. In 2003, India exported 17 vegetables to the tune of 0.92 million tones valued at 183.3 million dollars. In addition, 1 total of 0.22 millions tones of 14 processed vegetables worth 125 million dollars were also exported (Shanmugasundaram, S., 2005, The Hindu Survey of Indian Agriculture, 2005). There is great demand for vegetable and vegetable products for export. Vegetables have shown to earn 20-30 times more foreign exchange per unit area than cereals (Verma 2002).

Bottlenecks in vegetable cultivation:

 Adopting vegetable growing as business has some limitations also. These limitations are:

  • Perishability: As vegetables are perishable in nature, they need either very quick disposal (which causes glut in season) or proper processing (which is still lacking in our country). India is worlds' second largest producer but 35% of produce is lost due to poor post harvest management.
  • Infrastructure (Cold chain, roads, power and transportation):  Vegetables have very specific handling and storing requirements if their quality and freshness has to be maintained. Moreover, each product needs to be stored at specified temperature and humidity levels. Single chamber potato stores are not capable of sufficing such requirements. Multi-chamber, multi-product cold stores are more suited for storing horticulture produce. Realizing the need, the national horticulture board has brought out a number of schemes that promote multi- product multi-chamber cold stores. The board not only provides grants for creation of new cold stores, but also for expansion and modernization of the existing ones. Cold stores, coupled with cold chain infrastructure would provide the much-needed boost to the sector. Cold chains too are an essential part of managing transfer of both the raw material as well as the processed products from one place to another. Cold stores without the support of adequate cold chain infrastructure lose their significance as the quality of even a well-preserved raw material or processed product will deteriorate if not handle properly while transporting. Today cold chains are required right from the farm gate till the end product reaches the consumer. Other infrastructure issues like roads, power and transportation etc. also need to be addressed to prevent post harvest losses of vegetables.
  • Processing could have been an excellent remedy, but only 2% of produce is processed. Present vegetable and fruit processing industry is extremely decentralized. Around 70% of total processing unit fall under cottage industry.  India's share in international food trade is a minuscule 1.5%. Value addition to foods by processing is a mere 7% against 23% in China, 45% in Philippines and 88% in UK.
  • Marketing of vegetables is not very well organized in our country. It is dominated by more numbers of retailers and the price received by farmers is very less.

  • Proper techniques of packaging in vegetable are still lacking. An overview of status of packaging in our country shows that about 30 per cent of the marketable vegetables perish due to improper post harvest management.

  • Sufficient quantity of HYVS is not available.

  • Lack of knowledge among farmers regarding scientific cultivation practices of vegetables.
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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.