Time to go bananas!
Lockdown hindered most businesses, but banana export skyrocketed during the period; experts say the numbers are expected to further increase, but there are a few ‘slippery peels’ on the way to growth
TIRUCHY: While the pandemic pulled down almost every business last year, it pushed up banana exports - by a good 35 per cent. As domestic demand for fresh fruits grew, so did the international requirement. After a few initial months of disrupted logistics, export of fruits grew 25-35 per cent, say top exporters.
While the export of fresh fruits increased from 3 lakh metric tons in 2017-2018 to 5.07 lakh metric tons in 2020-2021, banana exports shot up from 1.01 lakh metric tons in 2018 to 1.95 lakh metric tons in 2020, says data gathered from the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA).
Iraq and Nepal together consumed over half of the bananas exported from India, while China and Philippines were competing with our country for a share in the export market. “Following the pandemic, both these countries reduced their exports owing to increasing local needs, thereby creating a major gap in the market,” explains Pankaj Khandelwal, chairman and managing director of INI Farms, Mumbai.
INI farms is one of the largest exporters of fresh fruits, especially bananas in India, they work across eight states in India including Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Recent schemes of the Centre, and improvements made to processing centres at ground level, have helped increase exports. “The banana varieties largely cultivated in Tamil Nadu, such as Grand Nain and Yelakki are in good demand in the global market,” says Pankaj. “If the State government takes steps to resolve the domestic logistic issues, there is scope for Tamil Nadu to witness a massive growth in exports.
Tamil Nadu is a major cultivator, but logistics remains an issue.” Pankaj points out that Andhra Pradesh, which stood below Tamil Nadu in banana exports, has now overtaken it, thanks to the efforts taken over the last four years.“There is a marginal increase in export of bananas,” says G Ageethan, Managing director of the Tamil Nadu Banana Producer Company Limited, Tiruchy. “On an average more than 200 - 250 containers of banana are exported from the State.
Over the next year, export numbers from TN is likely to increase by 450 - 500 metric tons.” Yet, area under cultivation has gradually been shrinking in the State, thanks to the lack of local support in terms of price. In Tiruchy alone, area under banana cultivation has come down from 10,000 hectares to 7,000 hectares in the last few years. ICAR-National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB) in Tiruchy has taken several measures to educate farmers. Speaking about it, Dr S Uma, Director, ICAR-NRCB stated that India currently produces 31.75 million tonnes of bananas and plantains in more than 8.98 lakh hectares of area.
NRCB has taken several measures to minimise post-harvest losses in bananas and enhance income by developing technologies to increase the shelf-life of bananas by adopting improved postharvest handling, pre-treatments, and cold storage, thereby minimising post-harvest losses and promoting the export of banana to long-distance countries through sea route. The transportation cost is one of the major issues which have hindered international export, and farmers have appealed to the State government to take measures in addressing this issue. If right measures are taken, Tamil Nadu could really tap its potential to lead the country in banana exports.
93% spike in exports in just two years
While the export of fresh fruits increased from 3 lakh metric tons in 2017-2018 to 5.07 lakh metric tons in 2020-2021, banana exports shot up from 1.01 lakh metric tons in 2018 to 1.95 lakh metric tonnes in 2020