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Maharashtra farmers welcome government initiative to give citrus production a boost

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on March 14, 2021

State to set up orange processing project in Amravati, citrus estate in Aurangabad

The Maharashtra Government has announced plans for a modern orange processing project at Varud-Morshi in Amravati district and a citrus estate at Paithan in Aurangabad district for enhancing the quality and productivity of citrus crops in the state.

Farmers and farmer producer companies have welcomed the move but want the State Government to walk the talk and implement the projects, which have been their long-standing demand.

Maharashtra Finance Minister Ajit Pawar had announced the orange processing project and citrus estate in his budget speech on March 8.

The orange produced in Maharashtra is of the Mandarin variety, and is extensively cultivated in Amravati and Nagpur districts of the Vidarbha region.

The fruit is unique as its outer skin is easy to peel, which makes it an ideal table fruit. Unlike other fruit trees, the Mandarin orange tree flowers twice in a year, providing an income in October and November and February and March.

An organic orange farmer from Katol in Nagpur district and President of the Nagpurisantra Farmers Producer Company, Manoj Jawanjal, said the demand for a citrus process facility for fruits such as sweet lime at Paithan goes back 15 years.

Devendra Fadnavis’ BJP government had given the go-ahead for the project, but the work is still in progress and the process of registration is being completed. The project at Paithan is a very positive one, but it needs to be implemented properly, he said.

Jawanjal, who is also a Director of MahaOrange (a marketing initiative of the State Government for oranges), said the State Government must ensure proper implementation of its projects.

Horticulture crops such as mangoes, pomegranate and grapes are properly supported and marketed, but oranges and sweet lime have never received support due to lack of initiative by the local political leadership.

If medical colleges can be set up, then why not a citrus fruit processing facility for the Vidarbha and Marathwada region, he said.

In the last 10 years, orange grading and processing units have been set up in Amravati, but not in Nagpur district.

A processing plant for oranges is very essential as good quality oranges get sold as table fruit but the rest of the produce does not even fetch Rs 10 per kg, resulting in farmers not even being able to recover their production costs.

Therefore, a local processing plant for orange juice and other value-added products is essential, Jawanjal said.

Mandarin oranges are primarily produced in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and according to the National Horticulture Board, in 2019-20 (second advance estimates) about 4.80 lakh hectares was under the crop, while production was 63.68 lakh tonnes.

Sweet lime or Mosambi is largely cultivated in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana and other parts of the country on over 1.9 lakh hectares and production is about 34.83 lakh tonnes.

Executive President of the Orange Growers’ Association of India, Amol Totey said the State Government needs a focussed approach for developing the Mandarin or Nagpur oranges.

From supporting farmers to post-harvest and packaging technology, the whole value chain needs the Maharashtra government’s thrust.

Today Kinoo, which is a hybrid high-yielding Mandarin orange from Punjab is opular because it has received good support from the local government for post-harvest technology.

For enhancing its shelf life the fruit needs to coated with a wax layer, which was heavily subsidised by the Punjab Government. Modern pack houses were also created, which helped Kinoo reach even the Russian market. In the same way the citrus fruits need to be supported by the Maharashtra government, he said.

Totey added that almost 100 trucks of Mandarin oranges reach Bangladesh and Nepal on a daily basis during the season.

A retired Maharashtra government officer said that developing a citrus complex in Aurangabad is a good idea, but water required for processing the fruits also needs to be arranged. As Aurangabad is drought prone, the water requirements in a low rainfall year is prioritised for other industrial and domestic uses. There should be uninterrupted water supply for the complex.

Published on March 14, 2021

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