Agri Business

Pomegranate prices in Maharashtra tumble on higher supplies

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on February 19, 2019 Published on February 19, 2019

TIRUCHI, TAMIL NADU, 11/09/2017: Pomegranate sales in Tiruchi. Photo: B. Velankanni Raj   -  THE HINDU

Problem of plenty In wholesale markets across Maharashtra, pomegranates are being sold at an average rate of ₹30 per kg. Depending on quality, the fruits are fetching between ₹15 and ₹45 a kg   -  Suraj Waghmare

Prices down by 50-70% over last year as inflows from Rajasthan, Gujarat rise

 

After onions, the price of pomegranates have started hitting rock bottom in Maharashtra on excess supplies. Compared to last year, prices of the ruby fruit are down by 50-70 per cent.

Maharashtra is the largest pomegranate-growing State in the country, with a coverage of over five lakh acres, while the all-India area is about 15 lakh acres. But, with a bumper crop in Rajasthan and Gujarat, the local wholesale markets in Pune and Mumbai are flooded with the arrivals.

Massive inflows

Shivling Sankh, Chairman of the Maharashtra Pomegranate Association, told BusinessLine that the prices of the fruit have drastically dropped due to heavy influx from Rajasthan and the Kutch region of Gujarat. In these States, the acreage has grown manifold leading to higher output and excess supplies in Maharashtra.

Earlier, in these States, the lands were not even producing crops worth ₹5,000 per acre. But, today, due to pomegranate cultivation, the earnings have risen to about ₹1,00,000 per acre and, therefore, the farmers dump their fruits at a lesser cost in the local market.

However, in Maharashtra a different picture emerges as the basic cost of cultivation has risen to ₹15 per kg. Pests and diseases have also added to the costs, Sankh said.

Double whammy

He also pointed out that exports from Maharashtra have also dried up because of massive dumping of the fruits by countries such as Peru in the European market.

“It is a double whammy for the farmers and traders in Maharashtra due to excess availability in the local markets and decline in exports,” he said.

Prabhakar Chandane, Executive Partner of Maha Anar, an association of co-operative societies for pomegranate, said that water scarcity in Maharashtra has also led to a decline in the quality and size of fruits.

Lower water content in the fruits has resulted in shrinkage and lesser demand from the markets. In wholesale markets across Maharashtra, pomegranates are being sold at an average rate of ₹30 per kg.

Plummeting prices

Depending on quality, the fruits are fetching between ₹15 and ₹45 a kg. At the retail level, they are fetching about ₹100-150 a kg. Chandane added that due to water scarcity in Maharashtra this year, farmers who had export commitments were sustaining their orchards by buying the water from commercial suppliers. They could still make a profit using water from tankers, but due to the dip in exports such orchards have now become unviable.

Rajasthan’s progress

Bhilwara-based Anil Rathi, who is Joint Secretary of the All India Pomegranate Association, said that today 15,000 hectares in Rajasthan are under pomegranate cultivation.

These are new plantations, which were started in 2005. The harvest is about to end and therefore, the production figures are yet to be collated but the production numbers have risen sharply.

Farmers in Rajasthan have been growing the ruby fruits in the most challenging circumstances with fluctuating temperatures — as low as 0 degree centigrade in winter and 48 degrees in summer.

Rathi said that the area under pomegranate has grown exponentially and in arid districts such as Barmer, Jhalor, Sirohi, Pali and Bhilwara it is much sought after.

However, Rathi also pointed out that the farmers and entrepreneurs in Rajasthan are yet to master the art of value-addition for pomegranates. From the fruits, juice can be extracted and fruit wine can also be made. The seeds can also be dried and processed as a food item. Such processed seeds are called arils, which can be eaten as a snack. There is a large demand for such seeds in the Western markets.

He also added that the fruits are being exported only to Bangladesh and Nepal and other markets are yet to be tapped.

In its first advance estimates for 2018-19, the Agriculture Ministry has placed the production of pomegranates at a record 28.65 lakh tonnes (lt), higher than the previous year’s 28.45 lt. Total acreage under the fruit for 2018-19 season is estimated at 2.46 lakh hectares ( 2.34 lakh hectares).

Published on February 19, 2019
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