Agri Business

Pineapple farmers bet big on APMC reforms for access to new markets

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on June 24, 2020

Industry sources pointed out that the changes would bring an end to a marketing system riddled with layers of middlemen, ultimately benefiting the growers.   -  Nagara Gopal

However, Covid-19 lockdown and migrant workers’ exodus play spoilsport

Kerala’s pineapple farmers are pinning greater hopes on APMC reforms which would enable them to tap into new markets and gain better price realisation for the fruit.

Hitherto, pineapple farmers were supposed to sell the fruit only in APMC markets in upcountry destinations with a load of more than 500 kg. The changes in the APMC Act will bring in transparency in sales and find new takers for the product in new markets, said Baby John, President, Pineapple Growers Association Keralam.

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

Industry sources pointed out that the changes would bring an end to a marketing system riddled with layers of middlemen, ultimately benefiting the growers. Besides, the Kerala government’s focus on fruit processing and value addition add further impetus on the hopes of pineapple growers.

Covid woes

However, the current reforms in APMC rules have not brought any cheer to the pineapple farming community, because of the worsening Covid situation that has hit sales not only in the local market but also many upcountry destinations.

The farm price of Vazhakkulam GI-tagged A grade pineapple has come down to ₹15 per kg, while B grade is ruling at ₹8-10. A combination of factors has hit the prospects of farmers such as declining prices, low arrivals and sales drop. The closing down of major pineapple markets in Maharashtra, Delhi, Chennai and Ahmedabad — deemed Covid-19 hotspots — has led to subdued consumer demand, John said.

Worker shortage

The labour shortage being experienced in farms across Kerala due to migrant workers’ exodus has also affected day-to-day operations. This has resulted in farms taken on lease from various plantation estates in the State being abandoned, he said.

There were about 25,000 migrant workers in pineapple farms; the number has come down to 4,000. Though many of them are trying to return, locals in many areas are objecting to it for fear of catching the infection. The government should take immediate steps for their safe return by providing them with adequate quarantine facilities, John said.

Pineapple production last year was 4.5 lakh tonnes, and the figure is expected to come down to 3.5 lakh this year. This would also have an impact on turnover, which may hover in the range of ₹750 crore from the previous ₹1,000 crore, he added.

The labour shortage has spurred the farming community to entrust the members of a sports club, the Travancore Sports Centre in Vazhakkulam, with farming on a pilot basis. A team comprising 20 sportsmen started working in farms. The intention is to attract youth to agriculture and earn additional income, said MP Thomas, president of the sports Centre.

Published on June 24, 2020

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