Pomegranates in Maharashtra have been affected by bacterial blight (oily spot) disease this season, causing damage to the fruit\u2019s quality by nearly 50% in the state. As a result, modal prices have been impacted and have dropped to a mere Rs 20-22 per kg leaving little cash in the hands of farmers, said Prabhakar Chandane, chairman, Maharashtra Pomegranate Growers Research Association. \u201cThe oily spot disease has been caused by the incessant rains in the state. It has been raining but has been an incessant drizzle and this has caused the disease in the fruit,\u201d he said. Pomegranates this season have been affected by the constant strikes in the state, initially the farmers stir, then the transport strike and the Maratha agitation because of which farmers could not bring their produce to the market and suddenly arrivals have now increased rates to drop,\u201d Chandane explained. Normally, arrivals in the Ambe Bahar season of pomegranates is nearly 5 lakh tonne but the arrivals have now gone up to 7 lakh tonne because of good production. The area under pomegranates has also increased from 1.25 lakh hectare to 1.75 lakh hectare which has led to an increase in production and accordingly increase in arrivals but the quality has been affected by bacterial blight disease, he said. The size of the fruit has been affected and the black spots on the fruit have also led to a dip in quality. 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. This season is not considered conducive for export to Europe. The option of exports is not available to Indian farmers this time because there is a marked preference for pomegranates from Spain in the European market. The fruit from Spain is larger in size and cheaper as well, he pointed out. The export season for Indian pomegranates begins from November and lasts till March. Normally, the country exports some 20,000 tonne pomegranates. For exports, West Asia continues to remain one of the biggest markets for India. Last year, India also exported pomegranates to countries such as Bangladesh, Bahrain, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands. However, during the current season, a mere 10,000 tonne has been exported to Dubai as opposed to double the amount last year, Chandane said, adding that he did not expect the numbers to go up this season. Bangladesh is no longer considered an attractive option for exporters because of changing government policies and hike in duties that Indian exporters have to shell out. For next four days, the border is shut and exporters have no way of transporting their produce and many of them do not take the risk of signing contracts for this reason, he said. According to sources, the Department of Agriculture has taken serious note of the issue of the bacteria blight disease and a public awareness campaign has been planned by the Commissioner office to help farmers tackle the disease. Maharashtra contributes 90% to the country\u2019s total pomegranate production. The state leads the pomegranate cultivation with approximately 1,75,000 hectare and other states totalling 30,000-40,000 hectare. Solapur is the largest producing region followed by Nashik and Sangli. New areas under pomegranate include Nagpur, Latur, Osmanabad and Washim. In addition to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have also begun growing pomegranates with the area under cultivation going up to 1,25,000 hectare in the last three years. Pomegranate is mostly grown in semi-arid tehsils of Solapur, Sangli, Satara, Ahmednagar, Pune and Nashik districts.