Agri Business

Migrant workers are back to pineapple farming, but no jobs to offer

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on June 23, 2021

A subdued demand and slump in prices has put pineapple growers in financial crisis

The return of migrant workers in the pineapple sector has put growers in Vazhakkulam, the home of Asia’s largest market for Pineapple, in a catch 22 situation. Many growers are unable to offer them work due to continuous slump in prices coupled with the majority of farmers decided to keep off from farming due to slackening demand.

“The workers from Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal have started returning as the Covid situation eases. But in the absence of major farming activities, the sector could not redeploy them even though they have agreed to reduce their wages,” Baby John, President, Pineapple Growers Association, Keralam said.

Also read: Hit by falling prices and labour shortage, pineapple farmers begin deserting their crop

“Their exit had created a severe workforce shortage in the sector. The consistent decline in prices in the last two seasons and the dearth of required workforce have all led to a production drop, forcing many farmers to abandon the crop. The absence of a timely harvest has resulted in decay of around 25,000 tonnes of pineapples,” John added.

Dent in sales

According to Baby John, the Covid-19 lockdown in many upcountry markets especially in Delhi, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh has hit the sales. A subdued demand, lower purchasing power of consumers in upcountry markets post lockdown has put pineapple growers in a financial crisis. All these have influenced growers not to go for any new lease for land or to continue with the farming in the existing lands.

John pointed out that the land lease for pineapple farming in the last two years was more than 8,000 hectares. He blamed the loss to the tune of ₹700-800 crore due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Lower returns

Jaison Jose, a farmer cum trader in Vazhakkulam said that production cost has gone up to ₹22 per kg whereas the fruit is fetching a farm gate price of around ₹15 per kg. Mounting loss from farming is now preventing farmers from paying their bank dues. Dwindling sales have forced many growers to leave the fruits in the plant and not to pluck them.

Currently, pineapple prices are hovering in the range of ₹16 for green and ₹17 each for special grade and ripe variety.

The sector is expecting a production drop of 20 per cent this year against the production of 4.5 lakh tonnes last year. This is evident from the demand for sucker (planting material), which is abysmally low, Jose added.

Published on June 22, 2021

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