Commercial horticulture nursery as agribusiness venture

Nongthombam Devachandra
Horticulture has been lovingly acknowledged as “HEARTICULTURE” by horticulture enthusiasts worldwide. As a professional in this field, it sounds good especially in the context that 2021 had been declared by United Nations General Assembly as “International Year of Fruits and Vegetables”. While agriculture with its ‘Green Revolution’ mitigated ‘hunger’ achieving ‘food security’ of the Nation since late 1960s; Horticulture through its numerous ‘Revolutions’ as stated below aim to ensure ‘nutritional security’ of the entire population besides earning foreign exchange.
Horticulture in NER
Horticulture is truly acknowledged as the most important ‘enabler’ of diversifying agriculture, both in India as well as in international scenario. Since the inception of National Horticulture Board during 1984 with their slogan-‘Progress through Horticulture’ inspires everyone. Fruit and plantation crops offer an effective alternative for jhuming and complementary in social forestry.
Use of ‘undescriptive’ planting materials raised from seeds leads to lots of variation in performance both in vegetative growth of the crops and reproductive parameters in terms of yield and quality. There is general increase in demand and administrative attempt towards organic farming. It is high time for encouraging nurserymen to raise ‘organic nurseries and saplings’.
Need for Nursery
Nursery is one of the essential stakeholders in a Supply Chain or Value Chain of Horticulture. At present, in each of the eight States in NER, there are less than 10 nurseries that are dependable in terms of capacity to supply authentic saplings in required quantity, as and when needed and at the affordable price. When nurseries are imported (where plant quarantine systems are yet to get implemented in letter and spirit), there is hidden risk of ‘untended’ introduction of weeds, pests, nematodes and pathogens. Thanks to extensive awareness provided by scientists from researchers from ICAR, AAU, CAU, CIH and KVKs, National Horticulture Board (NHB) had accredited few fruit nurseries in Assam (5), Mizoram (3), Nagaland (5), Sikkim (19) and Tripura (11) by the end of 2018. NHB partnering with CIH, Medziphema, is providing guidance for accreditation of fruit nurseries.
Techno-Economic Feasibility Study
The essential component for establishing a fruit nursery include a suitable site preferably with an approachable road, there shall be expandable land. Trained labourers who are well versed with budding and grafting are to be employed. Now a days forecast crop selection is adopted while raising the nurseries depending upon requirement ‘ordered’ for the coming season. Feasibility study need to cover the aspects as summarized hereunder: -
i. Understand the belts for cultivation of fruits, vegetables, flowers and MAPs in and around target site of venture.
ii. Analyse management and revenue performance of nearest medium-large nurseries.
iii. It is pertinent to understand Backward (sources of inputs)-Forward (marketing) linkages
iv. SWOT-(Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat) analysis needs to be undertaken.
v. Explore the possibility to involve FPOs as stakeholders in the venture.
vi. Pursue to obtain assistance from every related agency and institution.
vii. It is advisable to presume ‘as if availed Bank Loan’ while assessing the economic viability (even for own investment).
Involving FPOs as stakeholders
The agri-preneurs as well as members of FPOs in NER are competent enough to establish horticulture nurseries. In short, it may be highlighted as below:-
i. It is to be considered that its members are clients
ii. The feedbacks from FPOs would help in knowing the preferred crops
iii. Seasonal-Activity Calendar can be derived
iv. Always explore possibility to have Satellite Nurseries
v. Bulk procurement of a particular variety is possible
vi. Arrangement for institutional training (fee based) at the Nursery
vii. The produces of the FPOs can also be promoted for further expansion of nursery
viii.  Besides planting materials, all agri-allied inputs can also be dealt with in future
It is high time that States in NER implement and enact Nurseries Registration Act as soon as possible. It would be appropriate to mention that Assam had initiated a unique mechanism of ‘Recognising Horticulture Nurseries’ wherein Joint Director Horticulture, assumes the role of administrative authority.
Government Schemes
Nurseries in our region may target for the organic nurseries or planting materials raised through organic nursery practices, which would be one of its kind. It may be summarized as below:
i. Each state Agri-Horticulture Departments have State/ district specific schemes.
ii. Agri Start Ups, Stand Up India, Make in India Schemes under MSME* can be explored
iii. MoA&FW’s Agri Clinic Agri Business Centre (ACABC).
iv. Attempt for the Credit Linked Investment.
v. Liaison with the following for related grants/subsidy:
a) SFAC, APEDA, NABARD to explore becoming an FPOs Promoting Institution.
b) State Dept. Of Forest & Environment.
c) ICAR, Agri Universities, KVKs.
d) Dept. Of Tourism
Nursery as Agribusiness venture:
A nursery may be classified depending upon the volume of project cost from the investment view point as Small (< Rs.10 Lac), Medium (Rs.10- 25 Lac), Large (Rs. 26- 50 Lac), Very Large (Rs. 51- 100 Lac), and Hi-Tech /Automated (> Rs. 100 Lac). A medium scale nursery with Capital Investment of Rs. 8,29,500/- and capitalized (for six months) recurring cost if Rs. 3,94,200 can generate an average gross annual revenue of Rs. 16,60,000/- considering business cycle of 3-4 per year for sapling raising. Taking Discounting Factor @ 15% for a project period of five years, the venture is assessed to be technically feasible and economically viable with BCR 1.68 which practically acceptable in the agri-allied ventures.
To conclude with, the article targets three categories of stakeholders: First, those who are in nursery venture (advising to explore possibility to expand their activities owning satellite nurseries); second, enthusiast agripreneurs (to take the venture from small scale and plan to expand) and the third, all others without exception (to avoid purchasing nurseries/ saplings from roadside vendors and always purchase from nurseries so as to encourage them and their ventures). Only perfect planting materials ensure produces of quality and yield. Crops established from poor quality nurseries can never be improved even with world class Good Agricultural or Horticultural Practices (GAP/ GHP).
The writer is Assistant Professor (Fruit Science) Department of Fruit Science, College of Horticulture & Forestry (CAU, Imphal), Pasighat: 791102, Arunachal Pradesh, India; For further details contact:- Public Relation & Media Management Cell, CAU, Imphal. Email [email protected]