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Home / Business News / Farm scientists do their bit to tame food inflation

Farm scientists do their bit to tame food inflation

India's high food prices may have their origins in the lab, not just the markets. Farm scientists, therefore, are also giving a shot at fighting food inflation. Welcome to the weirdly innovative world of the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR), a cutting-edge government facility outside Bangalore.

business Updated: Mar 05, 2012 01:50 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times
Hindustantimes

India's high food prices may have their origins in the lab, not just the markets. Farm scientists, therefore, are also giving a shot at fighting food inflation. Welcome to the weirdly innovative world of the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR), a cutting-edge government facility outside Bangalore.


Research at the institute has led to an overhaul of India's entire range of commonly consumed, traditional vegetable varieties. The current generation of Indians eats a completely new array of disease-resistant and high-yielding hybrid veggies. And therefore pays a higher price.

Consumers now commonly have grapes and melons without seeds, capsicums that are a shiny yellow, tomatoes that are fleshier, French beans without fibrous strings that make them easy to cut and, also, anytime-of-the year cabbage, etc.

But quality comes with at a price. About 10 gm of "triple-disease-resistant" tomato seeds sell for Rs 650, which ultimately shows up in retail prices. Hybrids — any veggie you pick is one — are a technological leap, but they also hold the clue to why vegetables are not easy on the pocket anymore. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/3/05_03_pg11a.jpg

Having fought the pests, scientists at the Bangalore institute — a wing of the flagship Indian Council of Agricultural Research — are now fighting an unlikely enemy they have inadvertently strengthened: high prices.

Senior scientist B Balakrishna of the IIHR oversees a group of 55 farmers who collectively farm over 100 acres of high-value vegetables, such as European cucumber and pick-rose onions grown in climate-controlled "polyhouses".

The scientists first assess demand in the local markets in terms of quantity and quality, and then employ a group of aggregators to collect the produce at an assured price, who would further sell to the markets.

The key is to buy at a constant but profitable price from farmers and sell them further with a 15% mark-up.

"This has ensured a largely continuous, stable price," Balakrishna said.

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