It’s a double bonanza for Asia’s largest pineapple market, nine years after the Vazhakkulam Pineapple got the Geographical Indicator (GI) tag. Just when the Vazhakkulam pineapple merchants came together to announce that this market will be a hartal-free zone (free of business bandhs), pineapple has figured high in the potential export basket in the Centre’s draft national crop export policy. “Incentivising pineapple exports, as the draft crop export policy recommends, would nearly double the price realisation of Indian pineapple. At present, because of transportation glitches and fast perishability, only about 12 tonne per day are exported from Vazhakkulam,” said P P Joy, head and senior faculty, Pineapple Research Station, Vazhakkulam, near Kochi.
The Centre’s draft national crop exports policy aims to boost agriculture exports from $35 billion in the current year to $60 billion by 2022-23. Apeda has identified pineapple and ginger as crops that will be free from export controls. The crop export policy is envisaged to be notified in a month. “If only there are effective cold chain and similar logistic facilities to ensure longer shelf life for pineapple, the exports can be ramped up. At present,Vazhakkulam Pineapple can be exported only as air cargo because of perishability issues,” says Thomas Varghese, president, Vazhakkulam Merchants Association. In fact, it is to counter losses due to frequent business bandhs in Kerala that the pineapple traders recently took a unanimous stand that they will not respond to calls for trade-hartal.
In the current season, pineapple farmers are on their toes due to two reasons. One, there is a slight glut situation. From 3.25 lakh tonne in the last season, pineapple production in Vazhakulam has touched 4 lakh tonne this season. Secondly, the availability of trucks running between Vazhakulam market and buying markets in Maharashtra and other parts of the country has fallen by more than 30%. “The proposed national crop policy may create infrastructure to ease export of perishable fruits like pineapple. Only if Indian pineapple shifts from domestic market to export market, farmer could get better price realisation,” says M Narayanan, a pineapple farmer in Thodupuzha. Currently, an average pineapple fruit is sold at a Rs 20-24 price band.
India accounts for 7% of the world’s pineapple production, through three states — Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal. Interestingly, India accounts for 7% of the world’s pineapple consumption too. Even when Vazhakulam pineapple is exported, currently its destinations are limited to Gulf countries.