A fruitful venture
Set up over three decades ago, the National Horticulture Board (NHB) has worked closely with farmers to boost India’s fruit and vegetable production, besides ensuring their year around availability through establishment of cold storage facilities. In an interview with Smart Agri Post, NHB MD Dr A K Singh discusses the challenges facing the horticulture sector and how the NHB intends to overcome them
How did the National Horticulture Board (NHB) come into being?
National Horticulture Board (NHB) was set up by the Government of India in 1984 as an autonomous society under the Societies Registration Act 1860. The Managing Director is the Principal Executive of NHB who implements various schemes under overall supervision and guidance of the Board of Directors of NHB as well as the Department of Agriculture & Farmer’s Welfare, Government of India. The primary objective of NHB is to implement horticulture related policies of the Ministry of Agriculture to increase the productivity, minimise post-harvest losses and increase the farmers income on a continuous basis.
What are the various schemes under the National Horticulture Board?
The NHB assists in the development of commercial horticulture through production and post-harvest management of horticulture crops. We also have a Capital Investment Subsidy Scheme for construction, expansion and modernisation of Cold Storages of Horticulture Products. NHB is also involved in Technology Development and Transfer for promotion of Horticulture, besides providing Market Information Scheme for horticulture Crops. In addition, we also offer Horticulture Promotion Services and Expert Services
Does NHB engage in market information service for horticulture crops?
NHB generates information on wholesale prices, arrivals and trends in various markets of the country for important fruits, vegetables & flowers etc. and also on retail prices for increased number of selected markets.
It also analyses the trends of arrivals, prices and other related factors of the selected fruits and vegetables such as stock in storage and crop stand, besides generating Market Intelligence Reports.
The idea is to establish a nation-wide communication network for speedy collection and dissemination of market information data for its efficient and timely utilisation.
We also prepare farmers’ advisories and issue the same for the benefit of producer farmers especially by making use of statistics so generated and collected for optimising returns to the producers
NHB is actively engaged in information dissemination through publicity, advertisements, films, and printed literature on technology as well as packages in electronic form to be shared through IT enabled platform.
Who all are eligible for NHB schemes?
Unless otherwise specified, organisations and promoters, such as Association of Growers, Individuals, groups of farmers and consumers, Farmers Producer Organizations (FPOs,) Partnership or Proprietary Firms, Self Help groups (SHGs), NGOs, Companies, Corporations, Cooperatives, Cooperative Marketing Federations, Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees, Marketing Boards or Committees, Municipal Corporations or Committees, Agro-Industries Corporations, SAUs and other concerned R&D organisations are eligible to get assistance under all the NHB schemes.
How has the focus of NHB changed in your tenure?
NHB is a Nodal organisation at Central Level for Promotion of Integrated Development of Horticulture in the country, which includes hi-tech commercial production and Post Harvest Management and Primary Processing, among other things. I can say that the scope of work has now increased manifold in intensity and nature. There is a direct connection with all stake holders such as farmers, entrepreneurs, associations, institutions and exporters.
Does the NHB have adequate manpower to handle the increasing workload?
The Schemes of NHB are farmer friendly yet demand driven, the allocation of Budget with the scope of work have been increased. The monitoring work can be properly done with the adequate human resource. Web based information and on line service of our activities will be of great use. NHB has officers with vast experience in the field of Horticulture. Keeping in view the dynamics of technological innovation, consistent change is imperative hence, periodical training of the staff becomes essential to update the skills of human resources.
Cold chain development in the country is at slow pace. Do you agree, if yes what is your plan to augment?
NHB has very good scheme for development of cold chain, cold storage and CA Storages. I can say that the Board is a leader in country to build capacity to plug the gaps in the availability of cold storage space. This will help extend period of storage with enhanced shelf life of the horticultural commodities with reduced losses for a sustained supply in the season and off seasons. During 2014 -15 alone, NHB created additional storage capacity of 3.25 lakh metric tonnes across the country.
What are the major projects in hand?
As far as the cold storage is concerned, the Board has directly supported 3013 units so far since inception of the scheme in 1999-2000. It also created hubs or intensive areas for various crops like floriculture (controlled conditions), fruits like grapes, pomegranate, date palm, citrus, cultivation of vegetable in controlled condition, primary processing of spices, cashew processing and raisin units. NHB has been successful in attracting private investments in the field of commercial horticulture, value addition, cold /CA storages, processing and marketing. In addition, we assume leadership role and collaborate with academic institutions/universities in organising kisan goshthi or seminars and conferences on topical issues to create awareness among the farming community. NHB provides opportunities to its beneficiaries to bring their produce and sell at “Horti Sangams’ at various places in country.
Accreditation of the nurseries is another major activity NHB is engaged in. The purpose is to identify nurseries throughout India, accredit them, create awareness about the standards and IPR issues so that quality planting material is available to the buyers. NHB keeps organising awareness camps in different states to spread information about its schemes.
Is there scope for collaboration between horticulture Institutes of ICAR, SAUs & other public sector horticulture establishments and the NHB?
NHB which covers large spectrum of horticultural crops of various regions and related activities through various programmes is already associated with ICAR Institutes/SAUss besides State Department of Horticulture. The Board continues to take in to account the views of farmers representative in form of the Board of Directors. Progressive farmers are closely associated with the activities of the Board.
Are there any new plans to make NHB more farmer friendly?
NHB is maintaining an excellent online real time system wherein the details of all the individual projects are available and farmers can update themselves with regard to the status of their project. The programmes of NHB, procedures for making application, claim of subsidy and status of release of assistance can be seen by everyone, which I think, is the best way to associate NHB with the farmers in a transparent and efficient way.
How does NHB promote processing and export of horticultural produce?
The major role of NHB is to provide assistance for hi-tech production of quality horticultural commodities, creation of post harvest infrastructure and logistics. We assist primary processing thereby enabling farmers and entrepreneurs to challenge the global standards, avoiding the gluts and ensuring supplies throughout the year. The Board is also in touch with APEDA which is under control of Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Food Processing Industries for promotion of export of horticultural produce.
How is NHB visualising the mechanisation of Horticulture in India?
In our estimate, about 40-50% of production costs for fruit are for hired labour. Intensive cultivation of horticultural crops require more skilled labour than other agricultural crops. Labour problem is a major driver for mechanisation in India. Crop losses can be reduced by harvesting at proper time. Skill level and experience of labour often is not available. Using machines, the product throughput can be consistently monitored and the cost of production can be brought to a competitive level. Therefore NHB promotes and supports application of machines in the production activities, grading, packaging, in storage and transport. To start with, NHB has procured few fruit harvesters and equipped several ICAR institutes in India which are available at custom hiring basis.