New season brings good news for Maharashtra orange growers

By: |
Pune | Published: February 25, 2015 12:05:31 AM

Prices of the fruit could touch Rs 25,000/tonne against Rs 10,000/tonne that farmers received in previous season

The start of the coming Mrug season for orange growers in Maharashtra promises to be more remunerative than the previous season that has just concluded. This time around, prices of oranges could touch R25,000 per tonne offering better returns than R10,000 per tonne that farmers received in the previous season, more than double, senior officials of MahaOrange said.

Prices of oranges have been volatile and had fallen by around 40-45% in Maharashtra in the Ambiya Bahar season in light of a bumper crop. This season prices had fallen to R8,000 to R14,000 per tonne against R15,000 to R22000 per tonne for the same period last year, Anant Gharad, chairman, MahaOrange said.

The Ambiya Bahar season is a shorter one and lasts till April and the crop has been affected by a spell of unseasonal rains in the middle and, therefore, the crop could be affected to some extent, he said. Moreover, the produce is limited, he added.

This time, the demand from southern markets in Kerala is huge and oranges from Nagpur and Amravati are preferred in the rest of the domestic markets in India because the durability and quality is good, Amol Totey,  working president, Orange Growers Association of India said.

Bangladesh continues to remain the largest exporters while exports to markets such as Russia and Europe are negligible. This year, the farmers have decided to tap the West Asia and plan to send a pilot consignment to see how well Indian oranges are received in these markets through MahaOrange,  an apex body of the state’s orange growers’ co-operative societies  to boost production, processing, marketing and exports of oranges.

MahaOrange is expected to lead and co-ordinate efforts to promote and market oranges on the lines of MahaGrape, MahaMango and MahaBanana.  MahaOrange has signed the MoU with MSAMB to run the Export Facilitation Centre at Karanja Ghadage, Nagpur and expects grading, packaging and branding of oranges to make a difference to orange prices in the country.  Exports are expected to begin from the coming Mrug Bahar season that starts in March 2015, Gharad said and added that the unit is expected to begin functioning in the next fortnight.

“The demand from the domestic market from places such as Delhi and Uttar Pradesh has been less this year and the markets in South seek the green variety of oranges.  Exports have also dropped due to the drop in quality fruit like every year. The fruits are not uniform in colour and have a loose skin reducing their shelf life,” Gharad said.

To retain the flavour of  Nagpur oranges, MahaOrange plans to create nurseries and getting them registered so that standards are maintained at the ground level. The effort is to ensure that a farmer gets good rootstock and reduce C grade variety of oranges that constitute 30-40% of the total production, Gharad said.

These are usually given away at throwaway prices to processing units. According to Totey, in 2010, around 20 lakh tonnes of cultivation had dried up and, therefore, the effort is to bring in more irrigation. A major push is needed for export to Bangladesh and the Gulf, he said. Usually organised retail in the country opts for imported oranges that come in bulk, he said. His association has been attempting to promote high density plantation.

Maharashtra is the country’s largest producer and exporter of oranges. The area under orange cultivation in the state is about 1.21 lakh hectares and the total production exceeds 7 lakh tons annually, through two seasons — Ambia and Mruga.

The orange is mostly cultivated in Vidarbha region in near about 80,000 hectares area and production is five lakh tonnes. In Maharashtra, orange is cultivated in Amravati, Nagpur, Akola, Wardha and Yavatmal.

Out of these districts, Amravati district alone has 56747 ha area under oranges cultivation and accounts for 45% of mandarin area of the state.. Area-wise as well as production-wise this is about 45.50% of the country’s total orange production.

Other places where the fruit is grown are the northeast, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. However, oranges from Nagpur are considered top notch and the best in the country.

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