Kerala farmers join rambutan bandwagon, but will surfeit spoil party?

Rambutan, the egg-sized fruit that has its origins in the Malaysian−Indonesian region, is the latest fad among farmers in Kerala.

Published: 01st November 2022 08:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st November 2022 08:46 AM   |  A+A-

M C Saju at his 2.5-acre rambutan farm in Koothattukulam | express

M C Saju at his 2.5-acre rambutan farm in Koothattukulam | express

Express News Service

KOCHI: Rambutan, the egg-sized fruit that has its origins in the Malaysian−Indonesian region, is the latest fad among farmers in Kerala. But, will a possible glut in the next two-three years spoil the party?
This seems to be the million-dollar question that confronts farmers in Kerala who have jumped the bandwagon of rambutan cultivators in recent years, thanks to subdued prices of rubber.

“To be frank, I’m aware of the possibility of a huge supply of the fruit in the next three years, which may trigger a price collapse,” said M C Saju, a farmer in Ernakulam district’s Koothattukulam, who has entered into rambutan cultivation on 2.5 acres of land. The 60-something farmer’s concern is genuine as he had burnt his fingers in a similar mad rush by farmers when they cultivated cocoa in the late 1970s and vanilla in the early 2000s.

This time, Saju has protected himself against the possible crash in prices as he still has devoted five acres exclusively for rubber and another five acres for a mix of cocoa, nutmeg, coconut and pineapple. “Rambutan farming is an experiment which I think can yield good returns for me,” he reckoned.
Renny Jacob, group chairman of Kanjirappally-based Homegrown Biotech, who began rambutan farming in his four-acre land in 2009, is perhaps the first person in Kerala to cultivate this exotic fruit in an organised manner. “I’ve been hearing about the glut and crash in prices since 2012. Now, 10 years have gone, and it’s surprising that people still have their doubts,” he said.

Homegrown, which has its plant nurseries spread over 82 acres in Kanjirappally’s Vizhikkathode village, has the biggest collection of Southeast Asian fruit trees such as mangosteen, custard apple, dragon fruit and rambutan.

“What we have found over the last decade or so is that the local demand has grown consistently with the increase in the supply of the fruit,” said Jacob. Rambutan prices are ruling around Rs 300-325/kg in the retail market while farmers can easily get Rs 100-125/kg during harvest. “Rambutan, we have observed, is highly in demand in urban areas like Kochi. The fruit is much sought-after in shops near bus stations, and those manning fruit-vending carts,” said Jacob, who cut down rubber trees when rubber prices were ruling at a high level of Rs 225/kg sensing big profits through rambutan. M M Abbas, a founder of Organic Kerala Charitable Trust, said he advises farmers is to have a variety of crops on their farms, and not dependent on just a single crop. “We advise farmers against mono-cropping,” he said.

According to homegrown’s Jacob, farmers could easily get Rs 3-4 lakh/acre per annum from rambutan. “We are told that online grocer Big Basket clocks 20 lakh bills daily, 4 lakh in Bengaluru alone. About 60% of this is fresh produce. If we can have the last-mile connectivity, the potential is immense for fruits like rambutan,” he said.



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