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Updated: June 13, 2012 23:22 IST

Kerala pineapple farmers look to Sri Lanka

K. A. Martin
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The Pineapple Fest 2008 held at Vazhakulam, near Muvattupuzha. File Photo: H. Vibhu
The Pineapple Fest 2008 held at Vazhakulam, near Muvattupuzha. File Photo: H. Vibhu

Delegations of pineapple farmers from Kerala have visited the island country and are enthused by the conditions.

Farmers behind India's best known brand of pineapple in Kerala are looking to Sri Lanka for a new future, battered as they are by an unprecedented rise in labour and input costs.

While shortage of quality suckers threatens to bring down acreage under cultivation by 25 to 30 per cent in the new planting season, the price of grade A raw pineapple touched a record Rs.30 a kg on Tuesday at Vazhakkulam, the town near Kochi by whose name pineapple from Kerala is known across India.

The state produced about 3.25 lakh tonnes of pineapple last year from about 13,000 hectares under cultivation.

The Mauritius variety of pineapple from Kerala has conquered the Indian market centres such as Delhi, Mumbai and other metros and smaller cities. Its popularity, as the best suited for direct consumption, won Vazhakkulam Pineapple the GI registration in 2009, giving the business here a major boost.

Kerala fruit's quality helped steal a march over its counterparts from West Bengal and Odisha, establishing it as a premium brand since the early 1990s.

However, things have not remained rosy for the more than 2,500 farmers, says K. P. Kuriakose, a scientist with Kerala Agricultural University, who orchestrated the move to get GI registration for Vazhakkulam pineapple.

A combination of factors, including changes in the climatic conditions, had hit the farmers, who had adopted the best of farm management and business practices, said Dr. Kuriakose.

As a result, a hectare of pineapple farm now requires an investment of Rs.3.50 lakh. Production cost for the best quality pineapple is Rs.14 a kg, the price being pushed up constantly by rising spending on fertilizer and labour.

Bank loans have become too costly. A skilled labourer charges Rs.500 a day. Price of potash has gone up from Rs.6 a year ago to Rs.18 a kg and the cost of 20:20 fertilizer mix has gone up from Rs.7 to Rs.19 a kg, says Baby John, president of Pineapple Farmers' Association, which has a membership of 700 farmers with small and large holdings. These conditions have led the farmers to explore the possibility of migrating to Sri Lanka, where the production cost will be a quarter of that in Kerala. The soil conditions were fine and the government was willing to back the ventures, sources in the pineapple business said.

Delegations of pineapple farmers from Kerala have visited the island country in two batches and are enthused by the conditions. However, says Mr. John, marketing will be a problem as Sri Lanka is a small country that already produces pineapple to meet its domestic demand.

Kerala pineapple farmers exploring the possibility of migrating to Sri Lanka.What an extraordinary outcome.If it costs only one quarter of the cost in Kerala to grow pineapples it should be an opportunity for SRI LANKAN farmers NOT Kerala farmers.Growing pineapples is a low skilled occupation and there is so much youth unemployment in SL why can't we grow it here and export it to India(or elsewhere). If any technical input is needed for the venture Iam sure they could contact the Faculty of Agriculture in Peradeniya

from:  Frederick de Silva
Posted on: Jun 15, 2012 at 05:22 IST

Pineapples if not sold in India or sri Lanka should be exported to USA and europe or Processed into Canned fruits/Jams etc.

from:  parackal thomas
Posted on: Jun 14, 2012 at 23:34 IST

I don't see any reason why the Sri Lankan Govt should provide any encouragement for such a plan. Sri Lanka, as you state in your article, already has it's own pineapple cultivators who can easily meet the local demand. Why put their livelihoods at risk with such an incursion of foreign farmers?

This should only be given the go-ahead if the Indian farmers are willing to set up a grow and export type operation whereby they will grow the fruits in Sri Lanka and export to meet the demand in India, without encroaching on the local marketplace.This could a minor, but still valuable, source of foreign currency income for the Sri Lankan economy.

from:  paul
Posted on: Jun 14, 2012 at 09:55 IST
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