New Delhi: Production of commercial horticulture crops touched a record 300 million tonnes (mt) in 2016-17, the agriculture ministry said in its third advance estimate released on Thursday. The latest numbers are an upward revision from the 295mt as per the second advance estimate released in May, and 4.8% higher than the previous year’s production of 286mt.

According to the agriculture ministry, area under different horticulture crops which include fruits, vegetables and spices rose from 24.5 million hectares in 2015-16 to over 25 million hectares in 2016-17. The data further shows that while production of fruits rose 3.9% during this period to 93.7mt, that of vegetables increased 4.2% to 176mt. Production of different spices at 8.2mt saw a sharp increase of 17.4% year on year.

The record horticulture production in 2016-17 marks the fifth straight year that production of fruits and vegetables outstripped India’s foodgrain output. Earlier this month, the agriculture ministry raised its estimates of foodgrain production to 275.7mt in 2016-17, the highest ever in the history of Indian agriculture.

A bumper harvest of horticulture crops and foodgrains coupled with the cash crunch following demonetisation of high-value currency in November last year led to nosediving prices of several crops including, oilseeds, pulses and vegetables. Since June farmers in several states have been protesting for remunerative crop prices and a waiver of farm loans.

The latest numbers from the agriculture ministry showed that among major vegetables, production of potatoes, tomatoes and onions rose significantly during the year. While production of potatoes rose from 43.4mt to 48.2mt (11%) between 2015-16 and 2016-17, production of tomatoes rose from 18.7mt to 19.5mt (4.3%). Onion output rose from 20.9mt to 21.7mt (3.8%).

Over the past few years, Indian farmers have adopted horticulture crops, which ensure a quicker cash flow and can be grown in very small plots, unlike say, pulses, which may take more than six months from sowing to marketing.

State-wise data on production shows the horticulture boom is spread across the country—from Bihar and West Bengal to Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh—and not limited to the erstwhile foodgrain-based green revolution states of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.

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