Known as the “Banana City of India”, Jalgaon district in north Maharashtra contributes about half of Maharashtra’s banana production and more than 16% of that of India. If it were a country, Jalgaon would still be the seventh largest banana producer in the world, reported the Indian Express. Besides, its average yields at 70 tonnes per hectare are way above global levels. Often tagged as the ‘Banana Republic’, for all the right reasons, Jalgaon has achieved what it has despite the absence of essential natural pre-requisites.
The district, located over 300 km from the west coast and on the northern edge of the Deccan plateau, receives an average rainfall of just 750 mm yearly and the bananas are wholly produced by independent growers. So what makes it possible for an area that has extremely less water to still emerge as a ‘new’ banana republic?
• Strategic location: The district is located near the Bhusaval railway station enabling access to the North Indian market
• Drip irrigation: The spread of drip irrigation has made efficient use of scarce water possible. It covers 15,000 plants using the same 15-hp motor used under normal flood irrigation that could at best water 10,000 plants. The effective water savings is 60-70 per cent, reported IE. Since the advent of drip irrigation in 1989, Jalgaon’s banana production has risen almost three-fold from 1.2 million tonnes to 3.4 million tonnes.
• High-density planting: Jalgaon’s major disadvantage was its dry weather and lack of humidity required by bananas. This was overcome by close planting.
• Tissue culture: As per the report, the main advantage with tissue-cultured banana plants is that it is based on the disease-free and genetically pure material. Also, the individual plants are of uniform age.
Banana distribution and export to Pakistan
• Jalgaon produces around 3.4 million tonnes of bananas, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of Maharashtra’s and 11-12 per cent of India’s annual output.
• According to Premanand Hari Mahajan who has 80 acres land in Tandalwadi in Raver taluka, Jalgaon district has recorded the highest banana yields in the world with 53 tonnes banana per acre.
• According to IE, Mahajan has been tracking India-Pakistan developments and yearning for an open border for trade.
• Kishor Patil of Sarvadnya Kela Agencies, a trader-cum-box packer based in Raver, estimates that total banana supplies to Pakistan from Jalgaon, via Wagah near Amritsar and Uri/Poonch in J&K, topped 700 trucks of 16-17 tonnes each in 2013-14.