It may be a more familiar sight in the Indian countryside, but fields of okra, coriander and fenugreek could soon appear on the West Midlands landscape in a bid to secure the future of farming in the region.
Some of the world's most exotic produce, usually shipped from thousands of miles away to Britain, are set to be grown on the doorstep.
Agricultural students at Harper Adams University College are carrying out a feasibility study whether it would be commercially feasible to grow such produce for Britain's growing ethnic market. It is hoped if more farmers can grow produce such as okra, fenugreek, mustard leaves and bay leaves it will help keep the agricultural industry afloat.
James Watkins, executive director of the West Midlands Business Council, which is overseeing the project alongside the Asian Business Forum and the National Farmers' Union, said: "These products are being imported for sections of the ethnic community and we do believe that there is a far greater potential for the market generally because of the interest in global cuisine at the moment.
"This particular project is aiming at a new market within the UK itself and help take up some of the slack of lost business which some farmers may experience as a result of changes in the Common Agricultural Policy.
"It is good for business, it is good for the consumer and good for the environment.
" Businesses are often accused of not taking the environment seriously but this shows that we are by potentially cutting down thousands of food miles."
Surinder Pal, of JK Fresh Produce, runs one of the only businesses in the West Midlands already growing coriander and fenugreek for supermarkets and caterers.
After setting up his business near Shifnal, Shropshire, seven years ago he has rapidly expanded and cultivates 600 acres.
"The business is viable, we sell our produce all over the country from London to Glasgow and also in Ireland.
"It grows every year, sales are going up and we are expanding so there is a market out there but it is hard work, some days I am working for 14 to 15 hours because the crops need a lot of looking after to ensure they are the best quality. We have spent £250,000 already this year on improving the business, but because it is growing so rapidly there are never enough funds to reinvest in the business quick enough."
Although Mr Pal has proved his business is a success, most global produce is still imported to Britain from as far away as south Asia and South America for the thousands of restaurants and take aways as well as ethnic food stores.
With an increase in interest in global foods, it is hoped the produce could become a more popular choice with consumers and therefore offer local farmers a viable business.
Dr Sarindar Singh Sahota, deputy chairman of the West Midlands Business Council and executive member of the Asian Business Forum, said: "This study could lead to real business opportunities for farmers and retailers across the West Midlands region - and possibly across the UK.
"Instead of importing fresh produce, it could be grown here in the West Midlands and sold locally in the region. This study will find out whether this is commercially feasible."
Michael Oakes, regional board chairman for the NFU, said: "This initiative could potentially prove of major advantage to individual farm businesses across the West Midlands and we hope to build on these links further in the months ahead."
* Farmers interested in growing the crops should contact Martin Hingley at Harper Adams University College on 01952 820280 ..SUPL: