10 december 2005
Himalayan hills will carry fruits with the help of Neele
India imports fruits from as far as New Zealand and Chile, although the domestic soil and climate are excellent for growing fruits. The government of the Indian state Uttranchal requested the Dutch production and export company in horticulture, Neele AT Beheer BV, to design a way to upgrade the fruit production in the area. Neele came up with a plan to replace the shrubs and trees with new virus-free planting material, and to train the farmers in planting, pruning and irrigation. In a joint venture with two local partners, the work has started with some forty small farmers, to be expanded to one thousand farmers in another two years.
Jan Neele, managing director: "We are bringing in the expertise and some planting material to start with. The cultivation of new planting material will be done in India, because that is much cheaper. And with a new efficient system of irrigation we can eightfold the production. That is what makes the project viable." The rise in production will improve the income of the farmers. Neele: "The farmers are incredibly poor. Presently they earn less than a euro a day. This will soon be doubled."
The new plants are expected to bear fruit in a couple of months. Crops will be collected in the early morning, to be packed at a newly built processing station. Trucks will then transport the fruits to New Delhi, either for the domestic market or for exports. Neele: "The Americans are very fond of blueberries. And raspberries also yield a good price. Our task will be to market the crops, which is of course an immense job."
The participating farmers are not obliged to sell their crops to Neele and partners, but they will be tempted to do so. Neele: "We pay double the previous price, and they know that we will not buy the leftovers, if they sell the best quality fruits to others. Besides, we will provide education for their children and we will have professional day-care at the site for the infants of the workers."
Jan Neele has forty years of experience abroad, but is particularly fond of India. Still, he would never have ventured into this project without financial assistance of the Dutch government as well as the full support of the government of Uttranchal. "It would be too risky. Every step we take is new, and there are many obstacles, like red tape or 'sudden' import duties. And the project also has many social aspects and cultural sensitivities. So, I would never have started this without a contribution of the Programme for Cooperation with Emerging Markets, covering some of the risks."
P+ Webtip: Neele