Why is Indian produce consumption so low when production is so high? - FreshFruitPortal.com

Why is Indian produce consumption so low when production is so high?

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Why is Indian produce consumption so low when production is so high?

Indians are not eating as much fresh fruit and vegetables as they should be, according to a new report that delves into the country's consumption habits and the reasons behind the shortfall.

Delhi-based think-tank, the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), has investigated 'actual' consumption patterns across the country and compared them to World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.

The survey included 1,001 individuals drawn from households across Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and West Bengal made up of 58% male respondents and 42% female from upper and middle class income groups.

Investigators carried out face-to face interviews using a semi-structured questionnaire and recall methodology.

Fruit and vegetable intake survey results

Although India is a leading global producer of fruit and vegetables with an extremely large vegetarian population, the inadequate intake of fresh produce is partly determined by dietary choices favoring cereals.

Fruit and vegetables account for only 9% of the total calorie intake in India.

The WHO panel on diet, nutrition and prevention of chronic diseases, recommends a daily intake of at least 400g (14.1oz) of fruit and vegetables, excluding potatoes, cassava and other starchy tubers.

The average intake of fruits and vegetables in India is 3.5 servings per day, comprising 1.5 servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables.

Consumption is even lower for the younger generation with 18-25 year olds eating 2.97 servings per day and 18-35 year olds with 3.3 servings per day. The intake among students is 'abysmally low' at 2.94 servings per day.

On the other hand, housewives eat better with an average intake of 3.65 servings compared against 3.5 servings of working respondents.

"Indian consumers across all income groups are consuming less than the 'recommended' quantity," the report says.

"Income plays an important role, average daily intake is higher for higher income groups.

"There is inter-city variation in consumption. It is highest in Chennai (average intake of 4.35 servings per day and the lowest in Kolkata (average intake of 2.81 servings per day)."

The report says supply chain issues, availability, dietary choices and varying prices are all contributing factors to India’s poor consumption.

"India is one of the largest producers and a net importer of many fruits and vegetables. It is likely that with liberalisation, globalisation and easing of trade restrictions, different types of fresh and processed food will be more readily available in the country.

"Today, fruits and vegetables are available in different forms (such as fresh, frozen, juices and chopped), through multiple retail channels and in different formats (such as branded, non-branded, organic and inorganic).

"Inflation in prices of food items has played a major role in raising household expenditure. Further, there are inter-state differences in the prices of fruits and vegetables in India, this often affects the consumption pattern."

The survey also found the level of awareness about the WHO consumption recommendations is very low with 89% of the respondents unclear about how much fresh produce they should be eating, although 95% were aware of the general health benefits.

"Lifestyle is the topmost reason provided by the survey respondents (51.1%), followed by seasonal availability (25.7%) and high cost (20.6%) for their inability to meet the WHO recommendations."

ICRIER makes a number of policy recommendations following the report. These include traceability improvements to ensure hygiene and quality standards at farm level, building a greater awareness amongst Indians, especially younger generations, on the WHO recommendations and improving the availability of organic produce.

"While consumption decisions are personal, the government, through appropriate policy can support the desired consumption of fruits and vegetables which, in turn, will help build a healthy nation.

"Most importantly, government policy has to protect the interests of consumers and provide them with a broader choice in terms of product variety and retail formats."

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