Pineapple farmers of Kerala are facing a grave crisis with prices plunging to new lows due to supply glut.
For the last six months the market for pineapple has been showing the downward trend with prices now at below R6-7 per kg. Average price of pineapple used to be in the range of R30-40 per kg with good demand from the up-country and Middle East markets.
Kerala produces more than 3.5 lakh tonne of pineapples annually. Some North-East states and Karnataka also produce the fruit and in the peak production season prices tend to drop sharply due to lack of marketing channels. The finest quality ‘Mauritius Pineapple’ comes from Kerala. The produce of Kerala is very much in demand as a fresh fruit throughout India and also in foreign countries because it is considered the best in quality and has good flavour.
“Supply is higher by 30% than the normal with area and yield on the rise. Good returns from the fruit in the past few years prompted many to take pineapple farming. Demand is poor with competing fruits like orange and grapes priced relatively lower,” Baby John of the Pineapple Farmers Association of Vazhakulam told FE. Harsh winter also led to lesser transportation of the fruit to western and north Indian markets, he added.
“Farmers need a minimum of R16-17 per kg to meet the cost and the average return used to range between R30-40 per kg even in the peak season of August-February. But for the last six months the market has been depressed with some even trying to sell the fruit for R3-4 per kg. The situation is very bad and the farmers are incurring loss,” John said. The average yield per hectare is 7-8 tonne, which gives a farmer comparatively good returns if the price stays good.
Protest by the farmers led the government to announce a support price of R17 per kg but procurement has been poor due to various factors. Nadukkara Agro Processing Company (NAPCL), the concern formed by the government to help farmers, is in bad shape, John said. NAPCL is also trying its hand in export of pineapples to the west Asian countries, he added. Indian pineapples can effectively compete in the west Asian markets, which are dominated by the Philippines and Sri Lanka. NAPCL has been so far exporting only processed pineapple products such as pineapple juice concentrate.