THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: No fruits bats will dare to spread their wings in the prickly pineapple plantations. Yet, the pineapple industry in Kerala has been in doldrums in the last couple of months with the prices of ripened pineapple nosediving to Rs 8-10 per kg in the plantations.
Adding to the plummeting fortunes, the Nipah scare has made things worse for the growers with customers, hailing mainly from the Malabar region, turning their back on all types of fruits, even during the Ramzan.
According to representatives of the pineapple growers in central Kerala, farmers are struggling to cope with the market glut after a 40-50 per cent rise in the natural flowering of pineapple ahead of the season. The application of Ethephon, widely used to ripen fruits and regulate plant growth, has resulted in its overproduction here.
Baby John, executive director of Vazakulam Pineapple Growers and Processors’ Private Ltd, and former president of Pineapple Farmers’ Association, said the raw pineapple being exported to the north-Indian states has been fetching Rs 28-30 per kg in the plantations while farmers here were forced to sell off the ripened fruits at Rs 8-10 per kg.
The glut in the market had begun much ahead of the Nipah scare due to the rise in production. Nipah scare had made things worse with people choosing to stay indoors in the Malabar region when the sale of fruits usually peaks during the Ramzan, said Thomas Thannikkan, president, Vazakulam Merchants’ Association.
Agriculture Minister V S Sunilkumar said the department has instructed Horticorp and Vazhakulam Agro and Fruit Processing Company Ltd to procure pineapple from farmers and sell them through Horticorp outlets. As part of this, 126 tonnes of pineapple were procured and sold below the procurement price through various Horticorp outlets, he said. Steps have also been initiated for making pineapple pulp with the help of the Agro and Fruit Processing Company. But traders and growers say though the government’s intervention is a blessing for the farmers, it is not enough to bailout the sector from its current crisis.
The effective and easy way out from the crisis is the introduction of MD2 pineapple variety which has lot more shelf life than the current ‘Mauritius’ variety. Since the shelf life of MD2 is longer than ‘Mauritius’, the merchants and growers can export large quantities to foreign countries, said Baby John.
● In Kerala, pineapple is cultivated in an area of around 40,000 acres with an average production of 4 lakh tonnes per year.
● Around 80-85 per cent of its production is being sent to other states as raw green pineapple and around 15 per cent is domestically marketed as ripened fruits.
● The Mauritius variety of pineapple is now widely grown in Kerala