After undertaking efforts to strengthen back-end operations and ensure consistency, India's INI Farms is on the cusp of a sharp rise in pomegranate production.
During Fruit Logistica in Berlin last week, the company's general manager Kalpesh Khivasara told www.freshfruitportal.com that more than 600 metric tons (MT) of the fruit was exported last year to key markets of Europe and the Middle East, but this number was set to jump in the coming years.
"We are talking of about 15,000-20,000 (metric) tons per year of production in the next two to three years," he says, noting the majority of fruit is currently exported.
"The growth we're expecting is huge. That is the reason we’ve set up a branch office in the Netherlands, and we've also set up an office in the UAE."
While Khivasara said Indian law would not allow a single company to own large tracts of agricultural land, INI had a 15-year lease agreement over 800 hectares.
"Our reason for getting into this business in 2009 was that we saw that the fruit being sent to Europe was not of of a consistent quality, and you have to rely on multiple people because there is a very small landholding size; for example, to ship to Europe you may need to talk to 10 farmers," Khivasara said.
"We wanted to have control in the production so that we could assure the customer of the produce’s quality. What happens in India is that you don’t have consistent quality throughout the year.
"We are looking to change that slowly, and that’s the reason we got into the back end first."
The pomegranates are of the Bharwa variety and produced in the states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, marketed both locally and abroad under the name Kimaye. Khivasara added slightly rocky soil of the regions were ideal for pomegranate production, along with the right amount of access to water.
In addition to its fresh pomegranates, the company has also embarked on a value-added product with the fruit's aril seeds.
"Beside the export, we have to look at other value-added products, so we started to look at the arils. We’re already shipping them to the Middle East in large volumes, and we’ll soon start shipping them out to Germany in large volumes.
"Our peeling is manual, and after that the process is automated - the labor cost is not very expensive in India if you compare it to other countries."
INI has also ventured into the banana business and expects its own production to start coming up in 9-10 months from now.