KOCHI: The 900-member All Kerala Pineapple Farmers' Association (AKPFA), one of the largest pineapple farmers’ associations in the country, has sent a consignment of pineapple to Delhi by rail for the first time. The association sent 2.5 tons of pineapple in Delhi-bound Nizamuddin Express from Kochi's Ernakulam South Railway station on Wednesday.
According to James George Thottumariyil, president of the association, the consignment is sent to Diem Agro LLP, an agribusiness startup incubated at Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar, and funded by the RKVY-RAFTAAR scheme under the Ministry of Agriculture, Govt of India.
The start-up, co-promoted by Bibin Manuel, is developing an online marketplace for fruit and vegetable farmers to market their produce to interstate buyers, especially for pineapple farmers in Kerala.
Normally, pineapple is being sent to north India, one of the largest markets for the tropical fruit, by road in trucks, which take 5 days to reach Delhi while by rail, it will reach in 50 hours, James George said. "Thus, we can offer fresher fruits this time to the market and if the experiment succeeds, we have big plans to send bigger consignments regularly," he said. He also said the association received tremendous support from the State Horticulture Mission, Kerala, and the Department of Railways to make this happen. "Kisan Rail, which was launched on August 2020, was in touch with us for sending the fruits by rail and when the right time came, we took up the task," he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, the first consignment was flagged off from All Kerala Pineapple Farmers' headquarters in Vazhakulam to Kochi by James George; Sunil George Kodamulli, member, director board; Josekutty V M Vettiyankal, joint secretary, Kerala State Pineapple Farmers' Association; Bibin Manuel, Diem Agro LLP and Antony P P Vettiyankal, vice president of the Association.
James George said the GI-tagged Vazhakulam Pineapple is always getting attractive trade queries from north India and State Horticulture Mission - Kerala and the Railways have offered attractive incentives to send bigger consignments. "In this background, if the first assignment which reaches the market earlier on Friday evinces good response, we expect to do more business via the rails," he added. He also said they have used the same carton packing as used while sending the product by air while on trucks, it's normally used bulk packing. "Carton packing is better for the fruit to reach fresher and with least damage," he said.
Presently, farmers in the state of Kerala cultivate pineapple on around 18,000 hectares of land and produce 5.5 lakh tons of fruit. Diem Agro LLP, the agribusiness startup to whom the first consignment via rail is sent, is developing an online marketplace for fruits and vegetables, farmers, to market their produce to interstate buyers, especially for the pineapple farmers in Kerala.