Maharashtra is all set to export record 40,000 to 60,000 tonne of pomegranates in the coming season beginning November.
In 2014-15 season, the state had exported a record 40,000 tonne of pomegranate, an increase of nearly 33% compared to the previous season.
Prices have picked up after a poor start and doubled from R40-50 per kg to R100 per kg for farmers, said Prabhakar Chandane, chairman, Maharashtra Pomegranate Growers Research Association.
While the deficient monsoon has affected other crops, for pomegranates, less rains mean lesser possibility of fungal infections, he pointed out.
Cultivation of pomegranates is on the rise not only in the state but also across the country, Chandane said.
In addition to Maharashtra, pomegranates are now being cultivated in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Around 12.5-13 lakh tonne of production is expected in the coming season.
While the government quotes figures of 90 lakh hectares, the association says the crop is cultivated on some 140 lakh hectares, 1.5 times more than the earlier acreage, he said.
Pomegranate is mostly grown in semi-arid tehsils of Solapur, Sangli, Satara, Ahmednagar, Pune and Nashik districts. Maharashtra contributes 90% to the country’s total pomegranate production. The second season of harvesting is to come up in January-February period. The first season for the crop comes up in the July to September period.
Normally, the export season begins in November every year and is completed by March. However, the season extended up to April this year, Chandane said.
For exports, West Asia continues to remain one of the biggest markets for India, Chandane said. This year, India also exported pomegranates to countries such as Bangladesh, Bahrain, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands.
Although Russia emerged as a new market last year, traders are not keen to send products there owing to payment issues in the previous year, Chandane said. The UK, the UAE, the Netherlands, Egypt, Turkey, Bahrain and Kuwait are other important markets for the fruit.
In addition to increased acreage, new markets are also opening up, he said. In all likelihood markets in the US are also expected to open up next year.
Farmers across Maharashtra are switching to the fruit, which is more remunerative than grapes. Around 30,000 to 40,000 hectares are now under pomegranate cultivation as against 10,000-15,000 hectares last year. Although there is no clear data available, there are reports of farmers making a shift to pomegranates since this fruit commands a better price in the market as opposed to grapes, he said.
Indian pomegranates are now going to Colombo, West Asia, Russia and Europe, Chandane said. This year around 40,000 tonne of pomegranates are expected to be exported as against 30,000 tonne last year. Last year, pomegranates fetched farmers a price of Rs 150 per kg in the international markets. On the other hand, grape exports were affected due to reports of residual content and export norms for grapes are very strict.
New areas under pomegranate include Nagpur, Latur, Osmanabad and Washim. In addition to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu Karnataka and AP have also begun growing pomegranates with the area under cultivation going up to 1,25,000 hectares in the last three years.