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Coronavirus, a thorn in the side for Kerala pineapple growers

Price rise pulled down by subdued demand from North India

The euphoria over a rising trend in pineapple prices has started waning, with coronavirus dampening the prospects of growers on account of a subdued upcountry demand.

It is peak period in North India, especially after the winter season and setting in of summer, but the virus scare has brought down pineapple prices to a bare minimum. The rates are now hovering in the range of ₹20 a kg for A grade, GI-tagged Vazhakulam pineapple as against ₹30 per kg in January this year.

Seeking moratorium

Baby John, president, Pineapple Growers Association Keralam, told BusinessLine that there had been good price realisation till March 5, but prices started eroding, especially when APMC markets were about to close down as part of discouraging people from public gatherings. This has affected the fruit movement, which was down by 50 per cent from 1,000 tonnes per day, he said.

According to John, Delhi and Maharashtra are considered to be the prime markets for pineapple and the main season is expected to start from April, catering to the Ramadan demand. Delhi is a good market for special grade pineapple while Maharashtra is the largest market for other grades.

The virus outbreak across the country has shattered farmers’ expectations of good returns from the surging prices witnessed since the new year.

However, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu markets, where the coronavirus still has not had any significant impact, hold out some hope. “But we are more cautious in the wake of the spread of the virus to more regions”, added John.

The emerging situation has forced farmers to seek a one-year moratorium from the State Government on their existing agriculture loans, considering the difficulties in repayments due to falling income.

John said the production cost of pineapple has gone up at ₹20 per kg, which included the cost of planting material, lease rent, land preparation, etc. Moreover, the government’s decision to decontrol urea prices would seriously affect growers as it is the main manure for pineapple farming.

According to him, pineapple farming started recouping since January after being hit badly for two consecutive years, in the aftermath of floods, the glut in the market and other climatic conditions. When prices started moving up, they had brought some hope of a stable return from the harvest, for the farming community.

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