The ongoing farmers’ strike in Delhi has hit pineapple growers in Kerala hard, with supplies to upcountry markets around the capital grinding to a halt.

This has led to a price drop of ₹13 per kg at the farm-gate level for special grade green pineapple, which mainly caters to the markets of Delhi and beyond, from the last year level of ₹25. Even at the prevailing price, there are no takers for the fruit, said Baby John, President, Pineapple Growers Association, Keralam.

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Delhi, he said, is a major transit point for the movement of pineapple to the upcountry markets of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. But the road blockade by striking farmer organisations has impacted the dispatch of the fruit to these destinations.

According to traders, around 300 tonnes of special grade pineapple is normally transported to these upcountry markets on a daily basis, and this has dropped by 50 per cent due to the current disruptions. The December-January season is generally considered good for pineapple in these markets, but the drop in sales has impacted production as well.

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However, the traders said that movement to the other major markets of Gujarat and Rajasthan has not been hampered. There has been a daily consignment of around 200 tonnes.

Lower production

Pineapple production is expected to be lower this fiscal due to lockdown-related issues. The sector is expecting a 40 per cent drop from a daily figure of 1,300-1,400 tonnes to 700-800 tonnes. However, the delayed monsoon rains have helped to sustain production at a minimum level, despite farmers giving up production following labour shortage during Covid times.

Last year, the production was at 4.5 lakh tonnes. The lower production this year is likely to have an impact on the sector’s turnover from the previous year’s figure of ₹1,000 crore.

Raju Joseph, a farmer based in Thodupuzha, said growers are facing difficulties in sustaining farming, since the production cost is on the higher side at ₹20 per kg whereas the average price realisation is only ₹12. Besides, there is subdued demand for pineapple in the domestic markets due to the availability of alternatives from other States, such as orange and banana, at much lower prices.

Farm law impact

Hailing the recently enacted farm laws, John said APMC reforms will equip pineapple growers to tap into new markets and gain better prices. Hitherto they could sell the fruit only in APMC markets with a load of more than 500 kg. The changes in the APMC Act would bring in transparency in sales and find more takers in new markets, he added.

Normally, a pineapple farmer has to forego 7-8 per cent as commission for selling his produce in APMC markets as per the rules, and doing away with such a fee would benefit farmers in the long run, he further said.