Small vegetables get more buyers now

May 4, 2012

Ahmedabad: Indian horticulture sector is witnessing a ‘size revolution’ now. Farmers are opting for seeds that can produce small fruits and vegetables as nuclear families prefer to buy smaller varieties.

“Urban consumers are increasingly demanding smaller fruits and vegetables. Therefore, farmers are also focusing on this segment,” Organic Farming Association of India president Sarvadaman Patel said.

He added that farmers are getting more returns as the crop size is increased due to smaller vegetables.

Moreover, they are getting a premium for these crops as they were harvested earlier and looked tender. The demand for smaller variety is high in winter vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and sweet potatoes. Similarly, the trend is seen in summer vegetables like cucumber, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, lady finger, pumpkin etc.

Seed companies are set to benefit from this trend as farmers sow more seeds per acre. In order to ensure smaller size vegetables, seeds and saplings are planted closer. “For a family of two or three, it is difficult to consume a watermelon of 5-10 kg. So, now markets are flooded with watermelon of 1-3 kg. Earlier, consumers preferred a lady finger of 10-15 cm long; now they are opting for 5-8 cm long variety,” Bangalore-based Namdhari Seeds general manager (marketing) T Manjunath said. He added that the trend is picking up with retail chains demanding smaller size fruits and vegetables.

“Looking at the market trend and urban customer’s requirement, the size of the fruits like watermelon and papaya is reduced. This helps in fulfilling customer’s need by ensuring year-round production and availability,” Krishidhan Vegetable Seeds India director Kamal Somani said.

Business strategy specialist Harish Bijoor said farmers are now analysing market trends to understand the consumer needs through internet. “From small gadgets, we now come to items of food. A housewife doesn’t have to carry a pre-cut stock in her refrigerator now,” he said.

Mother Dairy business head (horticulture) Pradipta K. Sahoo said: “From joint families to nuclear families, consumers prefer pre-cut vegetables. If they were earlier buying one kg vegetables, now they buy only 250 gm.”

“The size preference is also region specific. A consumer in north India will go for small lady finger but in south they want large size with seeds,” he said.

However, farmers are concerned about the nutritional component.

“The bottle gourd should ideally weigh 700 gm to 800 gm but as consumers prefer smaller size we pluck them at 500 gm. This means that nutritional value is going down,” added Patel.