Rain leaves pineapple rotting, Kerala farmers suffer Rs100-crore loss

4,000 tonnes of  fruit decaying in farms with no takers, pushing 80 per cent of growers into dept trap with no support from state govt

Published: 19th May 2022 08:02 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th May 2022 08:02 AM   |  A+A-

pineapples

For representational purposes

Express News Service

KOCHI: At a time when pineapple farmers are struggling to recover from the market disturbances caused by Covid, unseasonal rains have led to a drop in demand leaving tonnes of fruit rotting in farmlands causing a loss of over Rs 100 crore. According to Pineapple Growers Association state president Baby John, around 4,000 tonnes of pineapple are rotting in the farms as there are no takers.

There are more than 5,000 pineapple farmers in the state cultivating the fruit in 45,000 acres of leased land. The Vazhakulam Pineapple Market ships around 1,200 tonnes of pineapple to markets outside the state. The annual production is 5 lakh tonnes. However, two years of Covid have disturbed the market and devastated the sector pushing around 80 per cent of farmers into debt trap. 

“The biggest challenge is selling the fruits that ripen in an uneven pattern due to natural flowering. The fruit which is sent to north Indian markets fetch Rs 28 per kg. The ripe fruits are sold in southern and local markets which fetch Rs  18 per kg. But the natural flowering fruits are small and they ripen unevenly. We are not getting even Rs 10 for it. The production cost of a fruit is Rs 25 per kg,” said Baby John.

“There is a drop in demand in  south Indian and local market due to rain. It would have been a great relief to the farmers if the Nadukkara Agro Processing Company Limited (NAPCL) procured some fruit. But the state government firm is refusing to support us. The procurement rate announced by the government is Rs 15 while the production cost is Rs 25. A farmer in Palakkad who cultivated pineapple in 18 acres of land suffered a loss of Rs 40 lakh as he could not market the fruit due to lockdown,” said All Kerala Pineapple Farmers’ Association president James George.

Pineapple is mainly cultivated in rubber plantations during replantation. The rubber saplings need seven years to grow and pineapple is cultivated for three-and-a-half years by taking the plantations on lease. The lease amount ranges from Rs 30,000 to Rs 70,000 per year according to the terrain and irrigation facilities. 
Around 9,000 pineapple plants can be cultivated in one acre of land and the expense per acre is Rs 3.5 lakh. If the standard farming technique is followed the farmer will get 12,000 to 14,000 fruits a year. 

According to Baby John, the farmers have availed loans to the tune of Rs 600 to Rs 700 crore and a majority of them have received bank notices. “If the government fails to act now it will lead to a huge disaster,” he said. 

“My husband had taken huge tracts of land on lease for pineapple cultivation in Palakkad, Vadakkanchery and Muvattupuzha. He had availed loans to the tune of Rs 1.4 crore from two banks. However, we could not sell the fruits during the lockdown which caused huge loss. The bank authorities were putting pressure to pay the interests. 

Unable to bear the pressure, he took the extreme step,” said Biji Binu, wife of Binu Mathew, 49, of Maradi near Muvattupuzha, who ended his life on March 19.“We were cultivating pineapple in 50 acres of land and my father had availed a loan of Rs 2.35 crore. During the lockdown days we were unable to sell even one load of fruit and the crop was rotting in the field. He was depressed and died by suicide. Though I continue the cultivation, the debt is mounting and the bank may attach our property any time,” said Abhijit, son of Anil K K, 46, who died by suicide on August 21, 2020.

“The farmers sell the products to middlemen when the prices are high and approach us seeking procurement when the prices crash. We need a steady supply to procure and process the fruit,” said Vazhakulam Agro and Fruit Processing Company Ltd managing director Shibu Kumar. 



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