India aims for commercial avocado trials
All India Avocado Producer Association secretary Abhilash Gorhe, is currently in contact with horticultural experts from Australia, South Africa and the U.K. to try and get the trials off the ground.
"We have a challenge of getting commercial varieties in the country," says Gorhe.
Gorhe says certain Indian states have the perfect tropical and subtropical weather for growing avocados.
"The biodiversity hotspots would be the four states in the western region of Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Sikkim in the northeastern region, and we are optimistic to try parts of Gujrat, Chhattisgarh and Western Ghat."
The Association is currently putting together a census to collects facts about that size of the industry, which at present has less than 50 known farmers with commercial plantations, although Gorhe thinks there are probably about 200 farmers growing the fruit.
"The region is very large and the organization is very lean at this stage."
He estimates between 500-1000 metric tons (MT) of avocados are currently produced annually for the domestic market, but believes the potential for growth is massive.
"At the moment avocados are consumed from where they are produced and only 1% of our 1.2 billion population is aware of the fruit. In the last few years there's been a surge of people with diabetes and there's growing awareness about good food."
He believes domestic demand will pick up when knowledge grows about the fruit's high energy anti-oxidant properties and its potential as an alternative cooking ingredient to cholesterol-busting hydro generated vegetable oil and clarified butter oil, known as desi ghee.
"Desi ghee is prepared from yogurt-curd which is processed to butter and then heated to get the ghee. This is good according to the Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine), but a very costly and time-consuming process," says Gorhe.
"Right now, we are contacting the government on these issues and we are trying to get more funds from them to help us with growing the sector of research, plantations, post harvest, supply chain management and avocado marketing."
Gorhe highlights the industry needs good planting material and nurseries,and while there is a booming supermarket retail sector there is still a lack of infrastructure like cold storage, ripening chambers and transport."
"We are currently contacting research institutes in India and internationally. The main thing is to get approved varieties which will solve the problem of genuine planting material for long term domestic production and supply in the country.
"If this all goes OK there is no need to export the avocados for the next 5-10 years. If and only if there are good rates and assurance of payments would someone then need to think about exports."
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