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Middle Class India Joins Global Organic Food Wave

Citizens of India vent their anger on a well known non-organic product.
by Julia Watson
UPI Food Writer
Jaipur, India (UPI) Feb 28, 2006
Shopping malls are not what the idealistic tourist expects to come across in India. But along with the new high-rise suburbs that house India's Bright Young Things -- the IT buffs and outsourcers -- they circle the capital.

On a Saturday night in Delhi's hot new suburb of Gurgaon, each of the spanking new malls is packed. Confidently brash young women have folded away their saris to step out in tight jeans and T-shirts for a noisy social walk-about in dazzling light.

But it's not clear, wandering through the main streets of Delhi, Jaipur or Agra, if the supermarket culture of the West has reached India.

At almost every crossroad there are market stalls tilting precariously with fresh fruits and vegetables. Street vendors selling cigarettes and shoelaces can also supply bottles of shampoo, rolls of toilet paper, and shoe polish.

But if the economically comfortable Indian housewife has anywhere to go to manage the household shopping with the one-stop ease of her Western counterpart, it isn't apparent.

So it's a surprise to learn, from ACNeilsen's most recent Online Consumer Opinion Survey, that India is in the Top Ten of nations buying "functional foods" -- those foods or products that have an added extra health advantage -- which are increasingly crowding the shelves of Western supermarkets.

More than 21,100 regular Internet users in the United States, Latin America, Europe, Asia, South Africa -- 38 countries all told -- were polled over their organic and functional foods buying habits.

Thirty-seven percent of Indians cited their children's health as the reason for buying organic foods. Fifty-five percent said they bought whole grain, high fiber products, 31 percent bought fortified fruit juices.

But a list of some of the most popular organic food items sold in Indian stores suggests that the nation's take on organic foods is not the same as in the West. And perhaps the apparent scarcity of supermarkets may be the reason.

Hot sellers are organic marmalade, strawberry preserve, black and green Darjeeling teas, honey, cashew butter and various flours.

Sixty-eight percent of Indians polled said they had never bought organic meat, 65 percent had never bought organic chicken and 57 percent had never bought organic eggs.

Around 50 percent of India's organic crops go to export, with only 1 percent remaining for home consumption.

Organic food production is a costly business anywhere, but particularly so on a subcontinent where irrigation is a challenge.

To grow one kilogram of Basmati rice that sells in India for around $2 takes 5,000 liters of water.

With every Indian eating nearly 4 pounds of rice each week, converting to organic would be an astronomical cost to household and environment. The annual salary of a production worker is $1,145. As elsewhere, organic food purchases increase an Indian housewife's shopping bill by roughly 25 percent.

Whether grown organically or not, cilantro makes an appearance at almost every Indian meal, most commonly as a chutney that pairs well with any grilled meat, chicken or fish, and plain rice. It's a good source of thiamin and zinc, Vitamins A and C.

--In a blender, blitz together 1 cup of fresh cilantro leaves, inch cube of peeled and roughly chopped fresh ginger, 1-2 green chilies according to heat preference, teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon water. Add a little more water if the paste is too thick.

-- Scrape into a bowl, add the juice of half a lemon and adjust salt to taste.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
World Food Programme

Hooked On Fishing And Were Heading For The Bottom
Vancouver BC (SPX) Feb 21, 2006
The world has passed "peak fish" and fishermen's nets will be hauling in ever diminishing loads unless there's political action to stem the global tide of over fishing, says a fisheries expert based at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Daniel Pauly says the crisis in the world's fisheries is less about scientific proof than about attitude and political will.

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