Cultivation of exotic vegetables in Pune district, which had seen an upward trend a few years back, seems to have failed to take off for want of markets. Farmers who had taken up cultivation of avocado, broccoli and other exotic vegetables, have gone back to normal vegetables.
Mahesh Shelke, a farmer from Junnar, had taken up cultivation of cherry tomatoes and yellow and red capsicum, four years back and said he failed to get the desired price. “Organised retailers had come to our village and asked us to cultivate these vegetables, in a kind of contract farming. Based on their assurances, we had cultivated such vegetables,” he said.
Lured by the easy returns, farmers in every tehshil had gone for cultivation of such vegetables. Broccoli, red and yellow capsicum, cherry tomatoes, and Thai bird chillies were popular.
“The input cost is around 30-40 per cent more than for normal vegetables,” he said. When it came to marketing of such vegetables, organised retailers refused to honour their word. “When our crops were ready, retailers refused to honour their commitment. For want of markets, we had to take our produce to the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in Mumbai and Pune. But there too, we did not get a fair price,” he said.
Shelke said that in APMC markets, traders refused to entertain farmers as few had information about such vegetables. Officers from the agriculture department say that five years back, every tehshil saw around 1 per cent of the vegetables cultivated being exotic. Following the setback, only 5-10 acres in some talukas like Junnar Ambegaon are growing such vegetables. “Organised retailers prefer vegetables from APMCs instead of buying it from farmers. Want of market is killing cultivation of such vegetables,” said an agriculture officer.
Three years back, cultivation of exotic vegetables had seen a peak. Shriram Gadve, president of the Vegetable Growers’ Association of India (VGAI) said the price tempted many farmers to grow exotic crops. “The market for exotic vegetables is limited but it has to be supplied consistently. At present hotels/restaurants require 10-15 types of such vegetables, consistently. Hotels prefer them from retailers rather than farmers,” he said. Gadve said prices had plummeted, destroying the market in Pune.
“Farmers stopped cultivating such vegetables and I do not think it will see a revival,’’ he said.