It is scientifically established that fruits and vegetables are essential sources of phytonutrients, which promote a wide range of health benefits.
The average consumption of fruits and vegetables among consumers in five cities – Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata- is abysmally low at about 240 gram a day, against 400 grams a day ( or five daily serving with an average serving size of 80gm) of fruits and vegetables, excluding potatoes, cassava and other starchy tubers according to a pioneering study by the World Health Organization (WHO) on diet, nutrition and prevention of chronic diseases. The consumption of 400 gm/day of fruits and vegetables helps to prevent diet-related chronic diseases and micronutrient deficiencies.
India is one of the largest producers of fruits and vegetables in the world. It is also one of the largest consumer markets, with food and grocery having the largest share in the consumption basket. However, a number of studies show that Indian consumers do not consume the WHO recommended quantity of fruits and vegetables.
Flagging the importance of including fruits & vegetables in the diet, which is a key source of phytonutrients that helps prevent diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer, the Study, India’s Phytonutrient Report by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), found that average intake in the five cities stood at 280 gm, with the younger generation (18-25) faring worse than the older ones.
Apart from this as per the Household Consumption Expenditure Survey carried out by National Sample Survey Officer in various rounds between 2004-15 and 2011-12, flagging that the per capital consumption of cereals and pulses and pulse products have declined in both rural and urban households, the consumption of fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs and fish etc has increased both in rural and urban households.
As per India’s Phytonutrirents report, consumption of per capita average intake of fruits and vegetables is highest in Chennai at 4.35 servings, followed by Hyderabad at 4.00 servings against WHO recommended five servings of 80gm each, while intake in Mumbai was at 2.84 servings per day with lowest at 2.81 servings per day in Kolkata, adding that intake was higher among vegetarians 27.4 percent compared with 17.3 percent amongnon-vegetarians.
Lifestyle is the top most reason for low consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables blamed by over 51 percent of respondents, over 25 percent cited availability issues, and over 20 percent quoted high prices and for their inability to meet WHO recommendation. Lifestyle is a key reason for low consumption across all age groups but more so among the younger cohort (18-35 years) and respondents in the national capital region.
Around 50 per cent of those aware of the WHO recommendations have educational qualification of post graduate and above. Almost 95 per cent of the respondents are aware of the benefits of fruits and vegetables in general. Print and electronic media are the key sources of information.
The report also pointed out that the issues related to pesticides and income constraints also compelled for low consumption of fruits and vegetables. It also noted that average daily intake was higher for higher income groups than lower income groups.
The survey also found that intake of nutritional supplements was quite low with only 21 percent respondents mentioned that they consumed those.
This report, based on secondary information analysis and a survey of 1,001 consumers across different states in India, tries to understand the production and availability of fruits and vegetables, consumption patterns, extent of shortfall in consumption, reasons for shortfall, implications of such shortfall for consumer health and well-being, among others. It also highlights policy issues related to food safety and standards, use of pesticides, organic products, food supply chain, foreign investment in retail, food pricing, and food supplements and nutraceuticals, among others.
The survey results in case of Hyderabad found that the average intake of fruits and vegetables is 4.0 servings per day, which comprise 2.0 servings of fruits and 2 servings of vegetables. The average intake of younger generation is even lower –for 18 to 25 years it is 2.97 servings per day and for 18-35 years it is 3.3 servings per day. The average intake among the students is abysmally low at 2.94 servings per day. Housewives do better in terms of fruits and vegetables intake with an average intake of 3.65 servings as compared to working persons –which is 3.5 servings per day.
The survey also noted that there are variations across diet types – the average daily intake of fruits and vegetables is 3.97 servings for a person with a Jain diet, while it is 3.87 servings for a vegetarian, 3.43 servings for eggetarian and 3.2 servings for a non-vegetarian.
A majority of Hyderabad consumers are willing to purchase organic products as they consider them to be of better quality and free of pesticides and chemicals that . However, only 29 percent of the respondents actually buy organic products that to be non-branded products as they feel that branded products are over- priced contain preservatives and are not always fresh and chemical free.
The other highlights of the survey is that majority of Hyderabad consumers prefer to buy fruits and vegetables from the local market and push carts and they also aware of the presence of adulterants in fruits and vegetables. Very few prefer to buy the clean fruits and vegetables from selected outlets, while other prefer to buy only organic products(29 percent).
Recognizing the growing demand for fruits and vegetables and control skyrocketing prices fruits and vegetables, the Telangana government decided to create a horticulture corporation and establish food processing units in a 200-acre campus in the state.
The Telangana government also decided to supply organic vegetables, fruits and spices across the State to save consumers from the ill-effects of pesticide residues in vegetables and fruits, which were being supplied to Hyderabad, 90 percent stocks of which were coming from other States. This would also provide livelihood and employment to local people in the State.
By G.Rajendra Kumar