With more states getting into pomegranate production, this season is seeing the crop being sown on a record 2 lakh hectare. The result — a bumper harvest of 22-25 lakh tonne and rates falling to Rs 60-70 per kg. During the previous season, farmers would get Rs 150-200 per kg for the fruit, one of the reasons why more farmers got into pomegranate cultivation. According to Maharashtra Pomegranate Growers Research Association (MPGRA) chairman Prabhakar Chandane, production this season has increased to nearly 22 lakh tonne from a normal production of some 15-16 lakh tonne every season. Moreover, 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 usually begins in December and lasts till March 15.
However, a record 51,000 tonne of the fruit was exported to overseas markets, including Europe, in the 2016-17 season. Normally, the country exports some 20,000 tonne pomegranates. The European markets have been saturated with heavy arrival of pomegranate and grapes from Peru, Chile and South Africa, effectively stopping Indian exports. Last year around this time, the country’s first export consignment of about 1.3 tonne of pomegranates reached Miami, Florida. 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.
Maharashtra contributes 90% to the country’s total pomegranate production. The state leads the pomegranate cultivation with approximately 1,75,000 hectare and other states totalling 30,000 to 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.
Because other states including Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have begun cultivating pomegranates, there is less demand for the fruit from Maharashtra, he said. The area under cultivation has risen nearly three- fold resulting in over production. The second season of harvesting is to come up in the January-February period. 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. Chandane said that because of early rains, there have been few instances of oily spot disease but the impact has not been much. He said rates would rise by Rs 10-15 per kg as the quality of the fruit improves although marketmen expressed concerns of rates falling further.