Despite being one of the largest producers of bananas in the world, India loses out in the global export market.

“The demand for fruits and vegetables in the country and abroad is growing at a phenomenal rate. But here, the post-harvest handling of produce is poor,” said Salil Singhal, co-chairman of the National Agriculture Council.

In Europe and the Unites States, 85 per cent of all fruits and vegetables produced go through a controlled handling process — a chain that ensures proper packaging, transportation and storage to deliver the fruit from the farmer to the consumer.

In India though, only 2 per cent of the produce undergoes controlled handling. “The cold chain has to be an integral part of the supply chain to ensure good quality, and it is essential for us to set up state-of-the-art cold chain infrastructure in the country,” Mr. Singhal said.

He was speaking at the Tamil Nadu Banana Festival 2012, which began on Friday. Organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in association with the Tamil Nadu government, the objective of the two-day festival was to explore ways to make Tamil Nadu a global leader in banana cultivation and supply chain.

R. Dinesh, chairman, CII Tamil Nadu State Council, said around 25 per cent of India’s banana production was concentrated in Tamil Nadu, but around 30 per cent of the produce went to waste due a lacuna in infrastructure.

This included a lack of quality consciousness among farmers, inadequate facilities for cold storage and transportation and no well-developed marketing strategies.

The cold chain industry, Mr. Singhal said, was expected to grow at a rate of 28.7 per cent over the next five years, and would be worth about $ 11.6 billion. “We need private players to come into this industry in order to make it grow,” he said.

Santhosh Babu, commissioner of horticulture and plantation crops, said, the State government would invest Rs. 40,000 crore over the next 10 years, in horticulture and agriculture.

“We also have several innovative projects coming up. For instance, an Indo-Israel project for vegetables is in the works,” he said. A feasibility report for setting up an integrated cold chain for bananas in TN was also released on the occasion.

B. Thiagarajan, convenor, agriculture and food processing panel, CII (TN), and Purushothaman Ravichandran, chairman of the festival, also participated in the programme.

Peri Metro project in Chennai soon

City residents will soon have access to quality vegetables at reasonable prices. As part of the NationalVegetable Initiative, the State will set up about 100 kiosks across the city, under the Peri Metro project. Santhosh Babu said, “Around 8,000 farmers have been clustered to form the Chennai Horticulture Produce Producers Company. Produce will be collected at 16 centres across five districts and be brought to the city.” The Rs. 17-crore project would bring in fresh produce for Chennaites and ensure fair prices for farmers too, he said.

More In: Chennai | Business | News