One of Albany’s top crops attracts attention of Indian consulate

FILE: Georgia is known for pecans, especially since it's the top producer in the U.S. Here, pecans are accumulated in a harvester cart. (Photo Courtesy of Eric Dusenbery for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Eric Dusenbery

Credit: Eric Dusenbery

FILE: Georgia is known for pecans, especially since it's the top producer in the U.S. Here, pecans are accumulated in a harvester cart. (Photo Courtesy of Eric Dusenbery for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

A year ago, India took the title as the most-populated country in the world, and the country’s consulate general in Atlanta said he thinks there is the potential for that huge market to go nuts over a product grown in southwest Georgia.

Last Thursday, Ramesh Babu Lakshmanan landed in Albany, Georgia for a two-day tour that included checking out some of the region’s agricultural bounty. And southwest Georgia’s pecan industry was a top item.

Ramesh, who has been in the post in Atlanta for six months, spoke at the lunchtime meeting of the Albany Rotary Club. It was his first visit to southwest Georgia.

“It’s a beautiful place,” the consulate general told an Albany Herald reporter as he ate a lunch that included jumbo fried shrimp, which are one of the largest exports from the United States to India. “I just landed from Atlanta, so I’m going to explore. I will go back to Atlanta and see what we can do between India and the region in terms of trade.”

Ramesh Babu Lakshmanan, left, consulate general of the Atlanta-based Consulate General of India, presents a gift to Albany Rotary Club President Michael Fowler. (Photo Courtesy of Alan Mauldin)

Credit: Alan Mauldin

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Credit: Alan Mauldin

Lakshmanan said he planned to look at farm equipment and farm operations.

“I want to go look at the technology and see if we can take it back to India,” he said. “This is a site visit focusing on farm technology, equipment and trade. We do have trade between Georgia and India, (but) not to the potential we’re looking for.”

His Atlanta office hosted a delegation representing the pecan industry in January, and Lakshmanan said he sees potential to grow the market in his home country.

During his remarks to the Rotarians, the consul general, whose territory includes six U.S. states, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, discussed the role of his office in passports and visas, cultural and educational aspects.

India surpassed China as the nation with the largest population in April 2023, and has more than 1,600 languages and dialects.

Some 350,000 Indian students travel to the United States each year for college, Lakshmanan said. India’s economy, now the world’s fifth-largest, is growing and expected to surpass Japan and Germany by 2029, and has an ambitious Vision 2047 plan to boost its gross domestic product significantly by 2047, the 100-year anniversary of the country’s independence from Great Britain.

“India is a growing population,” Lakshmanan said. “The middle class is growing. The market economy is booming. The consumer market is coming.”

India and the United States conducted $191 billion in trade in 2022, and trade increased by 34% between 2019 and 2023, he said. During that time, trade between India and Georgia increased by 65%, from $3.2 billion to $5.4 billion.

Georgia is the largest pecan-growing state, and the consul general said he sees the potential for more exports to India.

“Before I came, I never knew a pecan existed,” he said. “It’s a nice nut. It’s a good nut and good for Indians to have for nutrition. That (marketing) is something I think somebody needs to do.”

Among the audience was former Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, now managing partner with On Point Strategies. He said he hopes to grow the pecan business with India to $100 million.

“It’s a lofty goal, but it’s a realistic goal,” he said. “Our product is just so superior to everywhere else.”

Retaliation against U.S. agriculture that followed the implementation of tariffs on China by former President Trump hit the pecan industry hard. While some of that market has returned, India represents a virtually untapped market, Black said. Two of his partners worked with 200 chefs in India, and there was a focus on five-star restaurants.

“It’s huge,” he said of the potential in India. “There’s knowledge of what a pecan is, but they’ve never seen our product. There’s always a big ‘aha’ moment when people see a Georgia pecan.

“We need diversification in the market. When you get the most populous country and then they’re trying your product and they like it, that’s huge.”

And when it comes to the pecan, southwest Georgia boasts some of the biggest production in the state. Mitchell County was the No. 1 producer with 21,400 acres of trees and a market value of $48.68 million, according to the 2022 University of Georgia Farm Gate Value report, followed by Dougherty County with 20,000 acres and a value of $41 million.

Lee County was ranked fourth that year with 16,362 acres and a value of $17.67 million, and Calhoun County was 10th with 4,608 and a value of $10.3 million. For the state in 2022, there were 215,073 acres of trees, with a total value of more than $400 million.

Credit: Albany Herald

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Credit: Albany Herald


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