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The SAARC region has a wide varieties of horticultural crops

By Dr. S.M. ALAM
NIA, Tando Jam
Oct 29 - Nov 04, 2001

The SAARC is a committee of seven South Asian Nations, which stands for Asian South Association for Regional Co-operation. The seven committee members are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These countries have their own topographical conditions and variation climate. Varieties of agricultural crops, fruits are grown in these countries. Development of horticulture is also one of the agricultural branches of these countries. All the SAARC countries have also very similarity in culture and tradition, because of their historical ties. This region has enormous opportunity to grow tropical, sub-tropical and temperate horticultural crops of commercial importance. All these countries are trying hard to improve the nutritional, financial and food security of millions of poor people. Horticulture could be a vital sector to bring positive change in the socio-economic life of the millions of people lying in SAARC countries. These crops play a important role in balancing the diet of human being by providing not only energy-rich food, but also promise supply of vital protective nutrients like minerals and vitamins. They not only adorn the table, but also enrich health from the most nutritive menu and tone up energy and vigour of people of these countries.

The SAARC region has a rich topographic and climatic endowments and variations, where a wide varieties of horticultural crops, such as vegetables, fruits, roots and tubers, ornamental, medicinal and aromatic plants, plantation crops, spices and other are grown. This sector has the potential to provide opportunities to increase income and alleviation of hunger and poverty and curve down the socio-economic problems of the region. SAARC member countries have their own systems for agricultural productivity. Their horticultural field is very progressive.

Bangladesh: Bangladesh has an area of 147,570 square kilometers with a population of about 122 million (1999). It is located in northeastern part of South Asia lies between 20 and 26 N latitude and between 88 and 92 E longitude. It is a small having hills, plains, coastal, wet and marshy lands. The climate is mainly tropical with temperature ranging from 5 to 25 C in winter and 20 to 40 C in the summer. Average rainfall varies from 1450 mm to 4340 mm from north to south in the country. The total cropped area of the country is 13.70 mha. There are two cropping seasons, i.e. winter and summer. Most vegetables are grown in winter, while fruits in summer.

In Bangladesh, about 90 vegetables, 60 fruits and 25 spices are being

grown. The major vegetables include potato, tomato, brinjal, cabbage, cauliflower, bitter ground, long-yard bean, similarly fruits like mango, jack fruit, banana, pine apple, guava, papaya, lemons, litchi, jube, etc. are important. In spices, chilli, onion, garlic, turmeric, ginger, etc. and flowers, ornamental plants and flowers (roses, gladiolus, dahlia, chrysanthemum, marigold, jasmines, etc.) are grown. The horticultural crops like vegetables, spices and fruits play a significant role in nutritional improvement, employment of labour force, food and financial security of the people of the country.

Horticultural crops are grown in all over the country. The cultivated area under horticultural crops is about 0.7 mha;. Farmers grow horticultural crops both in homeland and farmland. They are sold in assembly markets, wholesale markets and retail markets. Overall the country is self-sufficient in many products but some sort of fruits and vegetables are imported from outside the country, this helps their people to enjoy themselves by eating fruits in their daily lives.

Bhutan: Bhutan is a small mountainous country to the north of India. It has no any seaport. Because of its typical geographical situation, it has considerable comparative advantage in the production of horticultural crops as the main growing season coincides with the hot humid monsoon seasons of the neighbouring plains of India and Bangladesh. A large range of different high quality horticultural products from temperate to tropical can be produced due to wide range in agroclimatic conditions. Among the horticultural crops, apples, walnut and citrus are the main fruits of the country. The vegetable crops include potato, onion, pumpkin, cabbage, beans, mustard, chilli, radish, peas, tomato, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, ginger, cardamom, etc. The country is self-sufficient in many edible commodities.

India: India is a big country with an area of about 31,16,683 square kilometers. Almost 4-times that of Pakistan. It has a wide variety of climate and soil on which a large range of horticultural crops such as fruits, vegetables, and other tropical crops, ornamental, medicinal and aromatic plants, spices, cocoa, etc. are grown. The fruit industry in India has made remarkable progress during the last 3 decades. India ranks 0 second in the total fruit production in the world. It produces about 65 % of the world's mangoes and 11 % of bananas. The five fruits, i.e. mango, banana Citrus, guava and apple account for about 75% of total fruit production in the country. Other important fruits are grapes, papaya, pomegranate, ber, aonla, sapota, bael, custard-apple. India has also made pivotal progress in the production of vegetable, tuber, ornamental, medicinal and aromatic plants. In addition, plantation crops and spices have also touched commercial values and India used to export substantial quantities to foreign country. Overall, India has made a remarkable progress in the field of horticultural industry.

Maldives: The Maldives Islands are an archipelago in the Indian ocean with an area of 30,000 hectares. Maldives is the second smallest country in Asia and consists of 1087 islands in 19 atolls, of which only about 200 islands are inhibit. All of the islands are small and vary from tiny banks to islets, none exceeding 5 square miles (13 sq. km) in area. The Maldives equational climate is hot and humid with a mean temperature of about 27C. Annual rainfall in the south averages 3807 mm and in the north 2538 mm. Agriculture is an important means of livelihood for the island economies of the Maldives. The growing of crops in the home garden is an all year activity. Field cultivation is usually seasonal. The agriculture crops are mainly rainfed and a wide range of crops are grown in the country. The main fruits are bananas, papaya, mango, lime, quava, custard apple, pond apple, star apple, pomegranate, passion fruit, sepodillan, stome apple and water melon, similarly vegetables (chillies, egg plants, pumpkin, cabbage, tomato, grounds and leafy vegetables) and plantation crops (coconuts, bread fruit, arecanut, etc.) are also grown in the different islands.

Nepal: Nepal is a small country situated between two large countries China and India at the Terai (Flat land) of Himalayas mountain. Due to its location and also because of sharp changes in topography caused by large variation in altitude, the country experiences a tropical climate in Terai, sub-tropical and warm temperate in the hills and cool and dry temperate in the mountains. In view of the existence of these different climates, mainly temperature, Nepal is found to be suitable for production of varieties of horticultural commodities with both for domestic and foreign market. Some important fruits such as citrus, apple, pear, sweet orange, litchi, banana, papaya, mango, peach and plum are very common in different areas of Nepal. In addition to fruits, the some of the common vegetables and species grown are: cauliflower, cabbage, khol rubi, radish, carrot, thilli, lettuce, onion spinach, broad leaf mustard, turnip, potato, Chinese cabbage, cow pea, bean, pea, tomato, egg plant, cucurbits, hot chilli okra, ginger, etc. Nepal has no any seaport, therefore, movement of these materials are carried out through India.

Pakistan: Pakistan offers variety in its landscape from the bread taking beauty of the high mountain ranges of the Himalayas of the North to the colourful intermountain valleys, rich irrigated plains, stark deserts and impressively rugged plateaus of Balochistan. Pakistan has a total geographical area of 796,096 square kilometers. The reported cultivated is placed at 20,760 thousand hectares. Pakistan is a sub-tropical and semi-arid country. The total water supply available in Pakistan is met from three main sources: rainfall, surface water and ground water. The mean annual rainfall varies from less than 100 mm in the Sindh to more than 75 mm in the foot-hills and northern mountains. About 60% of this rainfall come during the monsoon season. Of the total 15.3 mha irrigated area, about 75% is irrigated through canals, 19% through tube-wells, 4% canals, 2% through wells and other sources.

The horticulture is a highly important sub-sector of Pakistan's economy. It covers fruits, vegetables, flowers and ornamental plants. The fruit crops include mango: (langra, dasehri, chounsa, sindhri, anwar ratol, began pali and dasi varieties); citrus: (kinno mandarin, red blood, musambi, feutrel early); grapefruit: (marsh seedles shamber); lemon: (Nrika jaad kagfi lemon); dates: (asil, fasli, begum, jungi, mozawati, dhaki, halini and hussaini); apples: (golden delicious, red delicious, mashdi, khamiri, amri); pomegranate: (qandahari bhidana); guava: (sufaida, allahabali); apricots: (abdullah khani, charmaghzi); peaches: (Peshawar local, alberta, robin, early ground, florida king); plums: (fazal mannani, santa rosa, Stanley), almond: (kghzi, non peril, besta). Some new crops are asparagus, kiwi fruit, persimmon, ber (jujube), coconut, straw berries, cherries, chick (sapota).

Sri Lanka: The Sri Lanka is situated in the extreme south of India in the Indian Ocean. It covers an area of 65,610 square kilometers. The horticultural sector of Sri Lanka normally deals with two important areas, i.e. crop and ornamental sectors. The production of fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers fall into the crop sector. The ornamental sector is concerned with the production of live plants, cut-flowers, leaves, bulbs, corms and tubers. The cultivation is mostly dominated by about 35 tropical, sub-tropical and temperate fruit cultivars (coconut, mango, arocado, pineapple, guava, papaya, melon, wood apple, citrus, pears and passion fruit) and about 40 species of vegetables and root and tubers (bean, egg plants, red pumpkin, beet root, cucumber, paddish, ash plantain, mushroom and leaf vegetables, potato, sweet potato and cassava) cultivated on about 9 x 104 and 11 x 104 ha., respectively. The total annual production of fresh fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers is about 1.6 million tons for the year 1999, being produced in about 0.2 million hectares. These commodities brought about an estimated income of Rs. 20 billion. Most of these items are exported to the foreign countries. The current average yields of most of the horticultural crops are very low in Sri Lanka compared to many other developing countries. The post harvest losses of fruits and vegetables are estimated to be around 30-40 %, which contribute to the high market prices. Reduction of post harvest losses reduces the unit cost of production, lower the prices and increase the farmer's income.

Mango and citrus are the dominant fruits of the country and they have great value both inside and outside the country. The post harvest losses of the fruits are about Rs. 30 billion. The total numbers of orchards in the country are about 328 x 103 in all. The important vegetables of the country are: potato, tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, khol rabi, beans of different kinds, peas, sweet gourd, bottle gourd, cucumber, ribbed gourd, snake gourd, bitter gourd, spinach, beet, onion, asparagus, pepper, chilli, okra, garlic, ginger, brinjal, turmeric. The availability of flowers and ornamental plants has recently being increased with change in crop productivity and rise in living standards. The availability of pick flowers of 'red rose' and 'marigold' in use since ages for garlands or rosary has increased manifold. Additionally, the cut flowers for flowers arrange nuts have spring up in local market due to demand-pull by the local consumers. The dem and for long stem roses, tube roses and gladioli has tremendously increased. The exports of horticultural crops have increased substantially and that has brought enormous amounts of income for such export.

It was concluded from foregoing discussion that each member of SAARC country has its own technology of horticultural advancement in terms of production of fruits, vegetables, flouriculture and medicinal plants. However, with the development of regional co-operation among each other, there is every chance to increase the productivity of commodities to a substantial amount. Therefore, there is an urgent need to deal with cooperative activities in the following fields: i) Exchange of new germplasm in developing new crop varieties; ii) seed policies to facilitate the importation of hyrid seeds; iii) exchange of experts in different fields; iv) joint ventures in seeds and planting material production; v) joint ventures in storage and processing industry; vi) exchange of technologies in production of small farm machinery and equipment; vii) training programmes on hybrid seed production, post-harvest handling, processing, socio-economic data collection and analysis; viii) setting up of a regional information network, etc.