Ooty strawberry soon on Saudi Arabian platter

L. N. Revathy Kotagiri | Updated on July 06, 2011

Fruity affair: Mr Abdulrahman Subaie (second from left),Managing Director, Gulf Produce Group, planting IcebergLettuce at a farm in Kookalthorai village in the Nilgirisrecently to mark the beginning of the relationship with NilgirisHorti-Tech Co.Pvt Ltd. Mr H.N. Sivan, CEO and Director ofNIHTCO (far left) is also seen. — K. Ananthan   -  THE HINDU

Saudi businessman to import strawberry, Iceberg lettuce from NIHTCO

It was his maiden visit to the Nilgiris, but Mr Abdulrahman Subaie, the Saudi Arabian businessman flew in just to see the farms and convince himself that his order for import of strawberries and Iceberg lettuce (on a daily-basis) to the West Asian countries would originate from the farms in the Blue Mountain ranges.

And he did just that by inking an agreement with the NIHTCO (Nilgiris Horti-Tech Company Private Ltd) for procurement of exotic vegetables and fruits.

He toured the region for three days, met the small growers/farmers before placing the order for export of four tonnes of fresh strawberries and eight tonnes of Iceberg lettuce on a daily basis.

This deal though is not Mr Rahman's first import order from India. He told Business Line that he has been importing around 450-500 tonnes of sweet corn annually from Pune, the past three years.

“We import strawberry from Ethiopia, but the season lasts for just four months. Sourcing from Ethiopia has not been easy either. Flights into Riyadh have been reduced to one every fortnight and there's no port in Ethiopia. So, despite the proximity (as compared to India), it takes about 8 – 10 days for the produce to reach Riyadh. The rest of the year, we source our requirements from the US, Australia and Spain. But these berries are quite expensive. Daily consumption of straw berries in and around Riyadh is 14 tonnes,” said Mr Rahman, Managing Director of Gulf Produce Group.

Area under cultivation

Exotic vegetables such as Iceberg Lettuce, broccoli, zuchini, Chinese cabbage, celery and fruits such as strawberry, passion fruit, avocado, pear, etc are grown, albeit selectively.

According to Mr Sivan, the total area under vegetables and fruits (in the Nilgiris) in various clusters is around 20,000 acres. “Around 20,000 small farmers are cultivating these fruits and vegetables and the total value of such horticultural produce is estimated at Rs 800 crore. To augment organised cultivation and marketing of the vegetables and fruits, NIHTCO has been working closely with the farmers in the Kookalthorai, Kodhumudi, Nedugula, Thoraihatti ,Nanjanad, Ooty, Thangadu, Kundah, Sholur, Ketti and Thoodurmattam zones of the district. It is a cluster-based approach. The produce is marketed under the ‘Ooty Fresh' brand,” said the NIHTCO Chief.

market linkages

NIHTCO has established forward market linkages. The daily production of strawberry is just about one tonne at present and Iceberg - around four tonnes. These are consumed/ sold within the country.

“To honour our export commitment to Mr Rahman (estimated at Rs 50 crore annually), we will need to expand our area under strawberry by 25 acres and Iceberg lettuce by 200 acres,” Mr Sivan said.

Published on July 06, 2011

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