Rising production, thanks to increased area under the crop, coupled with a subdued upcountry demand due to surplus supply has resulted in pineapple prices dropping 45 per cent compared with last year.

The raw fruit is costing ₹18-20 per kg, while A grade fruit fetches ₹21 followed by ₹12 and ₹10 for B and C grades, respectively. Last year, prices were in the range of ₹35-40 with production being four lakh tonnes.  

Baby John, President of Pineapple Growers Association, Kerala, said the area of pineapple cultivation has gone up by 50 per cent mainly because farmers have shifted from natural rubber. Earlier, rubber farmers used to carry out pineapple as inter-crop in rubber plantations and now they prefer it as a pure crop mainly because natural rubber prices are declining. 

More lands on offer

The emerging situation coupled with the government’s reported move to offer lands owned by various government agencies for long-term lease for pineapple farming has also facilitated increased production. Fund shortage for maintaining these lands for weed control and wild animal threats are stated to be the reasons prompting the authorities to offer farms under inter-crop contract, he said.

Weather-related issues across upcountry markets also led to a subdued demand for pineapple. The shift of small and marginal spice farmers is another contributing factor for increased production of pineapples, he said.  

Not viable for processing

Given the situation, it is expected that the production will be higher by 50 per cent during November-December-January months, dragging prices further. He urged the government to take the initiative to create awareness among farmers to cultivate export varieties of pineapple such as MD 2, which has good shelf-life and ideal for processing to value added products.

The current production of pineapple is only for table purpose which is not economically viable for processing and exports, Baby John said.

PC Cyriac, former chairman of Rubber Board, said there are several rubber plantations in Kerala where re-planting is required and the fall in prices is forcing farmers to abandon the crop. These areas can take up pineapple farming. However, the need of the hour is more processing centres for the value-addition of pineapple to cater to the export markets.