As horticulture production outgrows food grain output in the country for the fifth consecutive year, the growth of India's horticulture is being intertwined with the progress of the food processing industry.

Starting the investment at the farm gate through the processing value chain to the ultimate consumer, and then ploughing it back to the farm gate forms the virtuous fruit circular economy, and this has the potential to improve the lives of India's farmers.

For farmers in India, this could be an opportunity worth pursuing. At 5.4 per cent, growth in horticulture products is twice that of food grains, while the productivity per hectare for horticulture is almost 5-6 times that of food grains. Farmers are now choosing to invest their efforts in growing fruits and vegetables. Consumption of fruit-based beverages is on the rise, and the industry now appears to be ready to commit investments to build processing of horticulture products.

For India's horticulture farming, it has been a long, arduous journey to arrive at this situation.

In 2004, we decided to invest and expand the market for our mango-based beverage through an approach straddling farm to beverage.

With steadily increasing procurement, food grain farmers were encouraged and saw an opportunity to grow mangoes that had a ready market for the food processing industry.

As more investments were made in promoting the beverage, there was need for more mangoes for processing. The increased demand led to increased investment in capacity and technology so that consumers could be presented with an option that they loved in more packages and formats.

A little over a decade later, we have been happy to build the overall category with strong competition, while the farmer has reaped good benefits as the industry expanded.

The price realization for farmers selling Totapuri mangoes, has witnessed a fourfold jump. Mango farmers are now reaping the rewards of the agricultural intervention made over the last decade. Since mango beverages are loved by Indians around the world, they have a ready export market too. Now, the intervention at the plant and technology level is beginning to happen, helping the fruit circular economy to take the next big leap. Several companies are launching new fruit-based products and new product categories are being developed, driving consumer demand for the products.

There is every reason to believe that other fruits could see similar benefits for the farmers. This growth will need similar intervention to catalyse the entire supply chain to reap the benefits of the fruit circular economy.

Expanding the juice portfolio could be the first step in ensuring that new fruit-flavoured juices find their way onto retail shelves.

In addition, aerated drinks can have fruits contents, some of them having been launched in recent months. Smoothies, fruit-milk fusions, or fruit frozen desserts are other possible variants that could arrive in the market.

Growth in per capita consumption of juice and new fruit variants would not only mean better nutrition to people, but will also lead to additional investments in processing facilities, resulting in better job creation and downstream benefits to the farmers, thereby fuelling the fruit circular economy further.

With the Indian farmer adopting good practices, working closely with the industry and other agri-institutions, they could lay the foundation for an export market which could fetch them long-term returns like never before.

This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post