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SMC initiative to improve AP post-harvest management

M. Somasekhar

HYDERABAD, April 8

FARMERS in Andhra Pradesh have done quite well in increasing the production of commercial crops such as chillies, mangoes, fruits and vegetables, which also have export potential.

The State Government, having realised the export potential, has promoted the setting up of a string of cold chain facilities, especially in the coastal districts of Krishna and Godavari.

With a total production of 95 lakh tonnes during 2001-02, horticulture accounts for 10-15 per cent of the State's gross domestic product. Production of fruits was 50.9 lakh tonnes and of vegetables 31.50 lakh tonnes. The production of chillies was 3.7 lakh tonnes.

The missing link, having a telling effect on the returns for the farmers, is the inadequate post-harvest techniques that would help keep the produce virtually farm fresh and ensure high quality for both domestic customers and for export.

Post-harvest losses have been the bane of agriculture production in the entire country, coasting the farmers heavy. Estimates put the overall loss at 20-25 per cent of the entire agricultural production.

Andhra Pradesh, despite being one of the progressive farming States, is no exception. The post-harvest scenario is quite weak, says Mr Vijayaraghavan of Sathguru Management Consultants (SMC).

SMC has tied up with the Cornell University, US, to bring in technological expertise that would help increase productivity and reduce post-harvest losses.

In collaboration with ICICI, it has also undertaken a study to explore the consortia approach and linkages with farmer groups to improve the scope for agri-processing.

With hardly any post-harvest management technology readily available in the country, the best option would be to obtain expertise from abroad and link it with farmers' consortia, he said.

SMC has initiated the process of bringing together a large Indian company and a farmer's consortium. In the next phase, the effort would be to attract overseas post-harvest technology. Such an approach would be cost-effective and practical, he said.

The Mango Growers' Association of Vijayawada and the Grape Growers Association in Hyderabad are some of the groups with whom it has started networking.

"In the case of mangoes, we have already talked with 4-5 big Indian companies for possible linkage to establish post-harvest management,'' Mr Vijayaraghavan said.

Irradiation, though controversial, is slowly gaining in application for commodities such as onions and potatoes.

The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre is in the process of setting up an irradiation facility in Lasalgaon, Nashik, for onions.

Lack of timely post-harvest techniques has resulted in problems for Indian mangoes and grapes, especially on the export front globally.

While the US and Spain have banned Indian mangoes, Japan has started importing them after exporting two vapour heat treatment plants that are used to treat the mangoes, before being shipped or flown to that country.

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