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Organic Farms Provide a Clue for India's Struggling Farms

r> He now also raises pigs, and sells his products to five-star hotels, expatriates and wealthy Indians, garnering strong weekly sales worth around 2,500 dollars.

-- Agriculture sector will be 'the next big thing' --

Another more recent start-up, Heritage Health Food, delivers boxed organic food grown on 80 acres of leased land.

'Agriculture is the sector that's going to be the next big thing. It's an unorganised sector so there's a lot of opportunity,' said Indira Khosla, a co-founder of the company.

The two-year-old firm makes 200 to 300 deliveries a week, priced at between 200 and 400 rupees (five to 10 dollars) depending on weight, and Khosla expects to start turning a profit by next year.

'Recent studies have shown that if you want to achieve growth, it can be through high-value crops and not though cereals,' said Surinder Sud, agriculture editor for the Business Standard daily.

'High-value crops include fruits, vegetables, milk, poultry products and fish.'

An Indian Council for Agricultural Research study showed that the two percent agricultural growth rate masked a six percent growth rate in fruits and vegetables, Sud said.

Even so, India, the world's second largest wheat producer, may be reluctant to encourage its farmers to move away from growing staples like rice and wheat.

As incomes and food consumption have gone up, wheat reserves fell last year and the country was forced to import the commodity for the first time in six years.

But Sud said that with huge foreign reserves thanks to 15 years of a booming economy that is now growing at more than nine percent per year, food security can be managed.

'The government can assure it through imports -- that's not a problem anymore,' said Sud. 'And by growing high-value crops the farmer would have money to purchase foods.'

-- A strategy for he
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