SMS Research

Title of the project: Scoping study on fruits and vegetables: results from India (An assessment of investment opportunities for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)


The Agricultural Development and Nutrition teams at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), in collaboration with the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), seek to investigate the potential of vegetable and fruit supply chains to increase the supply of and strengthen demand for nutritious foods, as well as improve market opportunities for increased income, especially for women. A global scoping study of the horticultural sector in West Africa, East Africa and South Asia was conducted. The Phase I study was based on available literature and secondary data and resulted in the identification of so-called leverage points for interventions in the food system to promote the production, trade and consumption of fruits and vegetables. To test the validity and feasibility of the identified leverage points in specific contexts, seven deep-dive country studies have been performed in seven countries in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Nigeria and Tanzania. This country study has the objective to further investigate and validate the leverage points identified in Phase I of the study for India. The ultimate goal of the country study is to understand what kind of investments can be made to accelerate systemic changes in the food system for healthier diets for all and more economic opportunities in particular for women. As a result of this study, BMGF and FCDO intend to identify potential investment options for enhancing the sustainable and inclusive development of the horticulture sector in India.


We investigated key questions on the fruit and vegetable sectors identified during Phase I. Since India is a large country, four states were selected for this study based on BMGF’s suggestions, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. Seven fruit and vegetable products including eggplant, litchi, mango, onion, orange, pea, and tomato were chosen for in-depth analysis in this research. The crop selection was based on opportunities for 1) an uptake of consumption among poor and middleclass urban and rural consumers; 2) economic importance and income generation for farmers; 3) importance for nutrition; and 4) economic empowerment opportunities for women. We applied a mix of 20 focus group discussions (FGDs), 12 key informant interviews (KIIs) and literature review to provide an answer to the key questions identified, allowing for in-depth information gathering as well as cross referencing and triangulation.

Key findings

The fruit and vegetable sector contributes 4.7% of India’s GDP and is of significant relevance for people’s livelihoods, especially in the rural areas. The state of Uttar Pradesh produces the largest share of the horticulture crops in India, accounting for 12.6% of the country’s total production, followed by West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh at 10.4% and 8.5%, respectively. The per-capita daily consumption of fruit and vegetables is calculated at 262 g per day per person, which is well below the World Health Organization recommended daily intake. Although progress has been made, the Indian fruit and vegetable sector are still not developed to their potential. The increases in fruit and vegetable production during the last decade was mainly achieved by land expansion instead of productivity enhancement. The domestic value chains, characterized by poor infrastructure and technology applications, lead to high losses, unstable productivity and fluctuating prices. We found that reduction of the cost price will not affect the farm gate price of the products because smallholder farmers are the price takers; however, it can improve the profitability of fruit and vegetable farmers. A more efficient fruit and vegetable supply is likely to reduce post-harvest losses and can potentially lower consumer prices. A more secure market can benefit smallholder farmers and provide them with incentives to sustainably intensify their fruit and vegetable production. This is especially the case when farmers have long-term contracts with larger retailers, such as supermarkets, that they will get better farm gate prices and experience fewer market risks. Moreover, removing the intermediaries in the fruit and vegetable supply chains by adopting direct (online) sales platforms is also an effective approach to reduce transition costs and improve value chain efficiency. However, when applying this strategy, we should not ignore the potential losses of the job opportunities for the middlemen in the fruit and vegetable supply chain. Therefore, a transformation of intermediaries’ role from traders to supply chain service providers should be facilitated. In terms of women empowerment, the different business models identified provide a more flexible approach to benefiting women, depending on the market context, as well as their own specific preferences. Becoming recognized as a pioneer in agribusiness, whether at a local, regional or national scale, is important and has the effect of removing the social stigma for women.

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