Poovan at Rs 7 per kg: Tamil Nadu banana sector's woes amid COVID-19 second wave
TIRUCHY: With the second wave of COVID-19 defying predictions of growth this year, the state’s banana export sector has taken a blow in both domestic and international markets. This has left hundreds of farmers in a fix, even making them leave their harvest-ready crop in the trees to perish owing to the price drop caused by the complete lockdown.
According to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), banana has become the largest exported fruit from India, over the past three years. Banana export has seen an increase from 1.01 lakh tonnes in 2018 to 1.95 lakh metric tonnes in 2020. It was further expected to reach new heights in 2021.
While the lockdown during the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020 opened up opportunities, the banana export sector was expected to increase by 35 per cent in the global market. Experts had predicted an increase this year and growth in the Eastern country markets. The second wave lockdown, however, turned the tables. While domestic export has come to nil, the international fresh fruit export took a 30 per cent fall compared with previous years’ standing.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Pankaj Khandelwal, Chairman & Managing Director, INI Farms, Mumbai, said, "Amid the intensifying second wave of COVID, the international export of banana took a major fall in 2021. Even our usual clients from other countries are reducing orders over certain issues. Though the volume of banana export (in the first three months of the year) witnessed a 50 percent increase than the 2020 lockdown, the export volume is 30 percent less compared with years before the COVID impact."
Khandelwal stated that apart from logistic issues, the export sector in the country is facing several other issues, including lack of labour (large numbers of migrant workers have returned to their hometowns) and truck movement issues in the ground level due to the prevailing lockdown.
While mentioning that it takes nearly six months to regain the market, Khandelwal said there is still hope for the Indian banana export sector to witness growth as China has still not opened its exports.
Speaking about the domestic exports of the banana, G Ageethan, Managing director of the Tamil Nadu Banana Producer Company Limited, Tiruchy, said, "Following the intensifying COVID situation, the domestic export to other states has come to a standstill situation. Owing to the new lockdown restrictions in opening shops, traders are hesitating to purchase. Thus farmers are left to rely on local markets, and excessive arrival has brought down the price of banana. As on Sunday, Poovan is sold at Rs 7 per kilo and Elachi is below Rs 20 per kilo, and others also took a fall."
M Mathialagan, district president of banana cultivators’ association, Thanjavur stated that as a step to aiding banana farmers across the state, the government can procure the fruit and distribute it to COVID-19 patients in hospitals and quarantine centres.