New Delhi: At a time when two consecutive droughts have ravaged India’s farm economy, the silver lining comes from record horticulture production, shows data released by the agriculture ministry on Thursday.

India’s horticulture output, comprising fruits, vegetables and spices, was a record 283.5 million tonnes (mt) in 2014-15 (second advance estimate), substantially higher than the foodgrain production of 252.7 mt (fourth advance estimate) recorded during the year.

In fact, in 2014-15—a drought during 2014 and unseasonal rain between February and April 2015—saw a 4.7% drop in foodgrain production, compared to the previous year.

In comparison, India’s horticulture output rose from 277.4 mt in 2013-14 to 283.5 mt in 2014-15, an over 2% growth in output, showing resilience to sub-par rains.

Horticulture production (269.4 mt) surpassed foodgrain output (257 mt) for the first time in 2012-13. The trend sustained even during the bumper crop year of 2013-14, with horticulture production (277.4 mt) surpassing foodgrain output (265 mt).

In January 2015, Mint reported that horticulture production during 2014-15 was set to surpass foodgrain production for the third straight year.

In the last decade, the area under horticulture grew by 2.7% annually and annual production increased by 7%, according to the report Horticultural Statistics At A Glance 2015.

Horticulture has taken root by improving incomes and productivity, generating employment and enhancing exports, the report said, adding, “as a result, horticulture has moved from rural confines to becoming a commercial venture".

The data shows that Indian farmers brought more area under horticulture, compared to foodgrain. Between 2010-11 and 2014-15, the area under horticulture increased by 18% to 23.4 million hectares, faster than the 5% growth in the area under foodgrains.

While a change in consumption patterns, with rising demand for vegetables, fruits, meat, milk and eggs in both urban and rural areas, fuelled horticulture and livestock initiatives across the country, schemes like the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (earlier National Horticulture Mission) have helped expand the area under these crops.

India is currently the second largest producer of vegetables and fruits in the world, after China.

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