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Agri farms leveraging a growing demand for exotic vegetables and spices in the food services sector

Agri farms leveraging a growing demand for exotic vegetables and spices in the food services sector
Chef Mayur of JW Marriott, Pune, begins his day at the farm and not the kitchen as most would believe. He travels more than 35 kms to Sanmitra Pandharpur and Amrita Chaudhury’s Offerings Farms so that his trademark Arugula Goat Cheese salad gets the best organics greens.

The cherry on your cake, the mushroom in your salad and the avocado in your ice cream are getting as exotic as they could get. Be it your tangy tarts, fiery grills or crunchy salads-it takes lot more than just skilled chefs to come up with the perfect recipe. Chefs at premium restaurants across the country couldn’t agree more. While choosing the perfect ingredient has always been a part of the chef’s job, making it as exotic as possible is a new addition.

Farms across the country are coming up with produce grown especially for premium eateries as chefs travel far and wide to pick up that secret ingredient that make their signature dish taste just perfect. For instance husband wife duo Sanmitra Pandharpur and Amrita Chaudhury’s Offering Farms tucked in a small village almost 40 kms always from Pune grows vegetables, grains and herbs to suit the tastes of connoisseurs and their favourite dishes.

Supplying their produce to hotels like JW Marriott and Westin in Pune and several others in Mumbai, Goa and Gurgaon the couple take pride in their organic produce.

While their produce basket include the usual broccolis and spinach their exotic harvests include the likes of baby rucola, wild arugula, butternut squash, malabar spinach and even chia, kale and baby kale.
“The best part about these farms are that their produce is completely organic and that compliments the freshness of the dishes,” said Chef Mayur, the executive chef at JW Marriott, Pune. “Offering, gives us exotic rocket lettuce, iceberg lettuce and endive lettuce which are fresh and give our salads the right punch,” he added.

Chef Mayur not only handpicks his herbs from the farms and their own home grown produce he also takes chefs from his team to the farms they use ingredients from. “Its not just the herbs, even exotic dairy products make it convenient for us to bring to table new delicacies for our guests to indulge in,” said Chef Satbir Bakshi, executive chef at The Oberoi, Mumbai.

Chef Bakshi recollects how he couldn’t find Burratta cheese in India after coming back impressed by the quality of the cheese back in London. Bakshi’s search came to an end when he found his haven in Michael’s dairy farm in Bangalore that had just started making Burratta cheese. “Burratta being so perishable couldn’t be imported and hence Michaels’s stuff that was 90% of what I had in London help us launch new dishes at our fine dining Italian Restaurant at The Oberoi in Mumbai-Vetro and since then it has been a favourite amongst our diners,” said chef Bakshi.

Ever since, Burratta has been incorporated in everything from sandwiches to salads at The Oberoi.
Alongside having envious list of clients that include mostly five star restaurants and boutique hotels these new age farm entrepreneurs also steal the show by bringing to table exotic varieties of king oyster mushroom, Japanese greens, lettuce, vanilla, pepper, nutmeg, cocoa, nutmeg and many more are being cultivated to suit the tastes of connoisseurs and their favourite dishes straight from nature’s basket.

The food services market, according to the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), an apex body of food service operators, and advisory firm Technopak, is estimated to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 10 per cent over the next five years. This is ahead of the 7.7% the market registered annually between 2013 and 2016. While a discretionary slowdown is still a challenge for most players, especially, organised players, a robust outlook for the market hints that most remain bullish about food services in the country over the medium to long term.

In its report, NRAI and Technopak have said that the size of the food services market stood at Rs 3.09 lakh crore in 2016 and is expected to touch Rs 4.98 lakh crore in 2021.
The food services industry is booming because of the country’s young population, their growing disposable incomes and a trend towards eating out. There is greater awareness about international cuisine too.

While volumes are picking up, restaurant and hotel owners are looking to cut import bills and chefs are exploring ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the dishes they create. Air transport of food implies higher energy consumption resulting in carbon emissions.

This is where the farm grown exotic vegetables and spices have emerged as the major choice for the chefs in hotels and restaurants. According to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, the market for exotic is growing at 15% to 20% year. Agri farms across the country are leveraging this growing demand for exotic vegetables and spices in the food services sector.
“We supply different types of vegetables like basil (lemon, thia, sweet), lettuces (green red iceberg), fennel, broccoli, leek, sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, babycorn, coloured pepper, zucchini to all the four properties of Taj group in Goa,” said Devangini Suryavanshi of Goa-based Palavi Agro Farm, who runs this exotic veggie business with her husband Amey Suryavanshi.
“We do contract farming for exotic veggie supply to the shopping malls in north Goa and for Taj properties. There are 10 farmers in Maharashtra and one in Karnataka with whom we have tied up to grow these vegetables. Since these are European vegetables they cannot grow in all type of climate and soil. All these vegetables are residue free and prices are mostly higher. Prices go up during summer and monsoon season since availability drops,” explained Devangini.
Palavi Agro also supplies exotic vegetables to Bigbazar and Magsons stores in North Goa.

While Suryavanshi has emerged has a major exotic veggie supplier in north Goa, Tanshikar Spice Farm located at Netravali village amidst Western Ghats is producing organic spices like vanilla, pepper, nutmeg, cocoa to supply to boutique restaurants in famous Goa beaches.

Spread over 25 acres Tanishkar organic spice farm is run by 41 year old Chinmay Tansihkar, his wife Gauri and mother Vrushali. “Chefs from these boutique restaurants visit our farm to pick and choose the right spice for their dishes. Price of our organic spice is 25% higher than the market price of ordinary variety. We supply organic spices to The Space Goa, Ourem 88 and others,” said Chinmay Tanishkar.


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