India has not only emerged as the largest producer of gherkins in the world but has also become it’s biggest exporter. Gherkins are popularly known as ‘Achari Kheer’. In the local language, farmers call it small cucumber. Gherkins belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. Gherkins are oval in shape and are generally thin. These are 4-5 cm long and are covered with minor hairy prickles. Talking about its seeds, they are smooth and white in colour and measure 3-5 mm.
Gherkin cultivation started in India in 1989. Later, gherkins were processed and exported from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Nearly 15% of the world’s gherkin requirement is produced in India. As a matter of fact, Karnataka alone exports 90% of the gherkins. One of its specialities is that it can be cultivated throughout the year. This is the reason why it provides employment opportunities to both the landless labourers as well as the owners of cultivable land. Gherkins are cultivated in 20 districts of Karnataka. It is grown in both the northern and southern parts of Karnataka. Gherkins are mainly grown at:
Karnataka – the King of Gherkins
About one lakh marginal, small and medium farmers in Karnataka cultivate gherkins. These one lakh farmers have produced 2.65 tonnes of gherkins in an area of about 50,000 hectares. Gherkins are mainly used for making pickles which are added to hamburgers as condiments. Gherkin cultivation in India is mainly done through contract farming. In Karnataka, the cultivation of gherkins is done completely via contract farming. 80 per cent of the country’s production is contributed by the state of Karnataka alone.
A major reason behind the success of gherkin cultivation is contract farming. Contract farming requires less capital investment and gives higher returns. The risk of price fluctuations is also less and the returns are guaranteed. Along with this, there is also a provision of technical assistance to the farmers so that they can get more yield at less cost by using new technology.
India is the largest exporter in the world
According to the data of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India has become the largest exporter of gherkins in the world. India has exported 1,23,846 MT of gherkins worth $114 million during April-October (2020-21). India exported $200 million worth of agro-processed pickling cumber in the last financial year. In 2020-21, India exported 2,23,515 metric tonnes of gherkins worth $223 million.
Gherkins are exported in two categories – those prepared and preserved with the use of vinegar or acetic acid.
Farming under contract farming
Today, India exports gherkins to more than 20 countries. The major countries in this list are:
- North America
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
Processed gherkins are exported in bulk for industrial raw material and it is ready for consumption. There are about 51 major companies in India producing and exporting gherkins in drums or ready-to-eat packs. APEDA has been instrumental in promoting the export of processed vegetables and is providing financial assistance for the development of infrastructure and quality enhancement of processed gherkins. It also does the promotion of gherkins in the international markets and implementation of food safety management systems in processing units.
Benefits to Gherkin Farmers
On average, a gherkin farmer produces 4 metric tonnes per acre and earns around ₹80,000 with a net income of ₹40,000. Gherkins have a 90 days harvesting cycle and farmers grow it twice annually. Processing plants of international standards have been set up to meet the requirement of overseas buyers. All gherkin production units and export companies are either ISO, BRC, IFS, FSSC 22000 certified or are HACCP certified or hold all certifications. Many companies have adopted social audits. It ensures that all statutory benefits are given to the employees.
This success of gherkin export will not only increase the cultivation but will also encourage farmers to grow more gherkins. Not only will the farmers be happy but it will also benefit the economy of the country. Even though the demand for gherkins is less in the domestic market, it is bound to increase after the masses adopt it in their cuisine.
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