TIRUCHY: The area under banana cultivation in the district has increased after almost five years. Cultivation has crossed last year's area and horticulture department officials said an additional thousand hectares were likely to come under cultivation by the end of November.
Once cultivated in about 10,000 hectares, banana is the second-largest crop in the district. However, due to issues including natural calamities and poor market prices, many farmers gave up cultivation over the past decade and the area under cultivation fell to 7,000 hectares in 2018 and 6,100 hectares in 2019.
Post-harvest loss was cited as the reason for farmers giving up banana cultivation. To stem the rot, ICAR-National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB) launched initiatives to train farmers to increase income through value addition.
Apart from natural calamities like gale, poor returns was a major concern for farmers. The price of banana dropped to just Rs 5 - 10 per kilo. Speaking to TNIE, Vimala, Deputy Director of Horticulture department, said, "Looks like the worst is over. At present, about 6,300 hectares have been used for banana cultivation. By by the end of this month, this will increase to 7,030 hectares as many farmers are showing interest towards cultivating banana."
Rajaraman, president, Cauvery Delta Farmers Welfare Association, said, "The recent announcement of the central government about establishing eight Export Promotion Fora across the State (one each to promote banana, grapes, mango, pomegranate, onion, dairy, rice basmati and rice non-basmati) will help farmers to get decent returns as they will be able to export ." He added that as the prospect is much possible many farmers are involving in banana cultivation.
For its part, the ICAR-NRCB has taken up several measures to educate farmers. Dr S. Uma, Director, ICAR-NRCB, said, "Area and production of banana has increased considerably compared to the previous year (30 MT from 8 lakh ha).
Presently, India produces 31.75 million tonnes of bananas and plantains from 8.98 lakh hectares of area. Presently, India shares 0.3% of the total export of banana with the value of around 658.58 crores and export volume of 1,95,746 MT."
She added that since Covid outbreak, farmers were facing a lot problems in cultivation, harvesting and marketing. The market glut often forces farmers to put his produces in a distress sale. To help farmers overcome the difficulties, NRCB is educating farmers on technologies to enhance shelf-life of banana, pre-treatment technique, packing and cold storage, thereby minimizing post-harvest loss and increase export potential.