India has the largest amount of land under fruit cultivation in the world after China. India, with its wide variability of climate and soil, produces a large range of horticultural crops such as fruits, vegetables, potato, tropical tuber crops, ornamental crops, medicinal and aromatic plants, spices, and plantation crops like coconut, cashewnut, cocoa, etc.
The Indian Government has identified horticultural crops as a means of diversification for making agriculture more profitable through efficient land use, optimum utilization of natural resources (soil, water and environment) and creating skilled employment for rural masses, especially women folk. The perishable nature of horticultural produce, the lack of post-harvest facilities like cold storages and pack houses, the shortage of processing facilities and the use of unscientific packaging all generated avoidable waste.
Over the years, horticulture emerged as an important and growing sub sector of agriculture, offering a wide range of choices to the farmers for crop diversification. It also provides ample opportunities for sustaining large number of agro industries which generates substantial employment opportunities. With agriculture and allied sectors finding alternate ways of increasing productivity of crops, horticulture as a major sub-sector, is a revelation, showing remarkable signs of progress in the state.
Efforts are on to encourage private investment in hi-tech horticulture with micro-propagation, protected cultivation, drip irrigation, and integrated nutrient and pest management besides making use of latest post-harvest technology particularly in the case of perishable commodities.
As a result, horticulture crop production has begun to move from rural confines to commercial ventures and has attracted young entrepreneurs, since it has proved to be intellectually satisfying and economically rewarding. It is only recently that a reasonably reliable data base for horticultural products has begun to take shape.
India produces all deciduous fruits including pome fruits (apple and pear) and stone fruits (peach, plum, apricot and cherry) in considerable quantity. These are mainly grown in the North-Western Indian States of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Himachal Pradesh (H.P.) and in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) hills. The North-Eastern Hills region, comprising of the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Sikkim also grows some of the deciduous fruits on a limited scale. Due to introduction and adaptation of low chilling cultivars of crops like peach, plum and pear, they are also now being grown commercially in certain areas of the north Indian plains. Out of all the deciduous fruits, apple is the most important in terms of production and extent.
India grows crops like apple (Maluspumila Mill.), pear (PyruscommunisBerm.f.), peach/nectarine (Prunuspersica (L). Bats. Ch.), plum (Prunusdomestica L.), apricot (Prunusarmeniaca L.), sweet cherry (Prunusavium L.) and sour cherry (Prunuscerasus L.) on a commercial scale.
The varied climatic and soil conditions in India provide enormous scope of cultivation of wide range of tropical, sub-tropical and temperate horticulture crops. The production of tropical and sub tropical horticulture crop is confined to the plains, coastal and root hills of Indian mountain whereas the temperate horticulture is monopoly of the hilly regions of the country.