The Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala has put a dent in the sale of the exotic fruit variety Rambutan, with its prices witnessing a price drop of 30-35 per cent in the last couple of days.

Retail prices plummeted to ₹150-160 from ₹240-250 a kg in the last couple of days and traders attributed the reason to the report of medical experts’ hinting at Rambutan as the likely source of Nipah. The virus had claimed the life of a 12-year-old boy in Kozhikode and led to the hospitalisation of several others. Small retailers in the northern part of Kerala who stocked various exotic stock varieties are the worst hit, traders said.

Last year’s fruit season was almost washed off due to Covid and the market was picking up this year including that of Rambutan with the starting of the season from June. However, the detection of Nipah has spoilt the prospects of farmers.

Baseless allegations

Jose Jacob, Managing Partner, HomeGrown Biotech, told BusinessLine that the allegations of Rambutan leading to the spread of Nipah are baseless. Traders requested the public to desist from sending incorrect messages on social media until scientific evidence is published in this regard.

Total production is estimated to be 30,000 tonnes and of this, around 10,000 tonnes is sold while the remaining is consumed by households as it is mainly grown in homesteads and not confined to commercial cultivation. The productivity of Rambutan is high with each tree producing about 100 kg, he said, adding that there are about 6000 farmers engaged in the farming of the fruit.

As the season is on its fag end, this is the peak time for consumption and isolated incidents impacted sales.

Also see: Increased arrivals of Sri Lankan pepper hit domestic prices in India

Shifas Sulaiman, a marketing professional and a Rambutan cultivator in Erumely, said that the sale of the fruit produced in the central Travancore belt has not been affected by Nipah as the yield in the current season was almost sold out much before Onam at a farm gate price of around ₹150 per kg. As an intercrop item, the fruit in this region is considered to be the best variety, thanks to its size and sweetness.

Rambutan is a money spinner, especially in the plantation sector in central Travancore belt, fetching a decent income. A product of south-east Asia, this particular variety is also cultivated in the hilly regions of Palakkad, Wayanad, Kozhikode and Kasargod. Besides Kerala, the crop is cultivated in parts of Karnataka near Mangaluru with varied seasons stretching to 6-8 months in tropical climates.


Rambutan farming in a homestead farm.