Once neglected, some traditional crops are new rising stars

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Did you know that not all bananas are yellow or curved like a half moon? Some are straight, some are stumpy, some are even red! There are actually 1,000 different varieties of bananas, but many of us wouldn’t know that from our markets or stores where Cavendish bananas are the ones primarily featured. Because they bruise less easily in transport and have high yields, these “typical” bananas are the ones most often produced. Despite the huge variety that exist in the world, Cavendish bananas constitute nearly 50% of bananas grown globally. The story is the same for many of our fruits and vegetables.

Over human history, out of about 30 000 edible plant species, 6,000 – 7,000 species have been cultivated for food. Yet, today we only grow approximately 170 crops on a commercially significant scale. Even more surprising, we depend highly on only about 30 of them to provide us with calories and nutrients that we need every day. More than 40 percent of our daily calories come from three staple crops: rice, wheat and maize!

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Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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