The banana train
Rajesh Harjani, a fifth-generation wholesale trader in fruits, eagerly awaits the arrival of a "banana train" at the rail yard of the Azadpur mandi in Delhi, Asia's biggest market for fruits and vegetables. The train, which is to arrive from Jalgaon, Maharashtra, is not any ordinary good trains run by the Indian Railways. With specially designed 80-odd insulated and ventilated containers, the train has been carrying more than a thousand tonnes of banana since its launch in mid-September this year.
The 'horti train', which runs once or twice a week between banana growing regions of Maharashtra and Delhi, has not only reduced transportation cost for traders like Harjani, the specialised train has also reduced perennial waste reported during transportation of fruits and vegetables by road. Various estimates indicate that 20-30% of the horticulture produce goes waste because of lack of modern storage and transportation facilities.
"The train's ability to carry huge quantity of banana has helped in reducing cost of transportation and storage for both farmers as well as traders," Harjani tells FE. He says after introduction of the horti train, the cost of transportation of banana has come down to Rs 2 per kg against Rs 3 per kg charged by road transporters.
In a first, the National Horticulture Board under the agriculture ministry and Container Corporation of India (CONCOR) has invested Rs 8 crore each for this dedicated modern train for exclusively transporting fruits and vegetables across the country.
Suresh Sachdeva, former president of fruits and vegetable merchants' association, Azadpur mandi, has been quite optimistic about increased business prospects , in terms of lower waste and quicker and economical transportation of bananas after the introduction of the special train. "More such trains for other fruits and vegetables should be introduced so that transportation cost is reduced, which would eventually benefit the consumers."