According to research conducted by Fresh Intelligence on data obtained from the Ministry of Commerce, India’s fresh fruit imports reached record levels of 721,493 tonnes in the calendar year 2021. This was more than double against 359,716 tonnes in 2020. The adage “availability creates demand” rings true even today. It just cannot be truer than it is in the case of India’s imported fruit industry. By bringing in fruits from other countries, India has been able to help its fruit industry grow and give its consumers the best of both worlds.  

Fresh produce basket boom 

Indians enjoy exotic mushrooms, kiwis, olives, broccoli, dragon fruit, and more. Urban dwellers and high-end hotel and restaurant guests have lately increased demand for these items. India has encouraged importers after seeing market potential. Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiris area is noted for its lettuce and Himachal Pradesh for its avocados. India is the second-largest producer of fruits, and vegetables and a big market for gourmet products. 

Imported fruits and vegetables have been more popular in India over the last two decades, with consumption increasing from nil in 2002 to 721,493 tonnes in 2021, and from negligible to over ₹19,700 crore in 2022. Experts and studies indicate that this pattern will continue to expand. India’s domestic production of foreign cuisines is increasing at a rate of 14–16 per cent each year, closely following the country’s booming demand for such fare. To boost this relatively unnoticed industry, the government of India has pledged to provide local farmers with the seeds and saplings of rare culinary items. Fuji apples and other species of green apples from Japan; red grapes; dates; berries; kiwi fruit; several types of mandarin oranges; pomelo; and numerous other citrus fruits are among the most frequently imported fruits. 

Tracing the rise and its reasons  

While growth was gradual initially, the market expanded outside large urban centres and began catering to the middle and upper classes. It started at the tables of the wealthy and slowly worked its way down to the plates of the middle class as incomes rose and lifestyles changed. 

The look of the imported fruits and vegetables is appealing, which is the consumer’s primary motivation for purchasing them. The idea that these products have added nutritional benefits is another major factor in their popularity, particularly after the pandemic. In addition to being accessible throughout the year, the availability of these items contributes to a greater variety in the market, providing customers with an expanded range of purchasing possibilities. The internet and social media expansion is also helping to increase its proliferation across geographical boundaries. These items are marketed and sold under their brand names, and the sellers promote those brands across social media platforms with the help of influencers such as chefs, dietitians, and other industry professionals to boost demand for their goods. Finally, the ease of online shopping and doorstep delivery, in addition to the convenience associated with these more recent selling features, has resulted in an exponential market expansion, which has now infiltrated both tier 2 and tier 3 cities. 

Streamlined supply and yield  

Agriculture’s supply side is going through a significant change. Fruits and vegetable farming attracts corporate investment. With CEA, plant genetics, etc., fruits and vegetables that were previously imported are now grown in India, boosting inventories to meet increased demand and flooding the market. Farmers can enhance productivity and yields using modern technology. These sustainable farming efforts will appeal to environmentally conscientious customers and create more demand in return.  

Vantage view: The exotic basket of fruits is a gift that keeps on giving  

Consumer habits and health advantages boost demand for exotic fruits and veggies. Due to their taste and health advantages, more people are consuming plant-based cuisine and exotic fruits. Owing to some of the leading fresh fruit importers and their vast network, India now has access to fruit and veggies year-round. They taste excellent and have several health advantages. With the influx of funds, the business is upgrading in terms of storage and logistics, which were traditionally a major obstacle for fresh produce. Moreover, with the aid of corporate marketing methods, these items are reaching a wider audience of consumers. As long as the demand for imported fruits and vegetables continues to rise, it will be easy to get them to every part of the country through online and offline channels. 

(The author is Director, Single Family Office, IG International.)

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