Njalipoovan price has seen the steepest rise among banana varieties across Kerala

With the festival season on the horizon, a boom in demand is driving up prices of fruits, especially of bananas across the State.

Among banana varieties, njalipoovan price has seen the steepest rise, the retail price going up from Rs. 34 a kg in February to Rs. 60 a kg on Sunday at some of the markets around Kochi.

This has largely to do with the demand from Sharjah shake makers, says Dr. K. Aravindakshan of Kerala Agricultural University and veteran researcher on bananas.

Best suited for shakes

He says that qualities like the high pulp to peel ratio and longevity make njalipoovan best suited to making Sharjah shakes, a fruit-and-milk combination, popular with young people. Dr. Aravindakshan says banana production in the State may not have diminished significantly, but demand has gone up sharply.

Njalipoovan is suited to conditions across Kerala and is also grown in Tirunelveli and Nagercoil, areas in Tamil Nadu, as well as in the Retnagiri belt.

Resistant variety

Their plants produce suckers profusely; are drought resistant and do not easily succumb to diseases.

They can be planted as intercrop among coconut and arecanut trees and in coffee plantations, he added.

Agricultural Department data show that area under banana cultivation has fluctuated over the decades.

Figures for 2008-09, the latest available, showed that there were 0.54 lakh hectares under different varieties of bananas in the State.

This is a rise from 1970-71 when only 0.48 lakh hectares were under banana cultivation.

Resurgence

However, the turn of the millennium saw resurgence in banana cultivation with acreage under the crop gradually moving up to 0.99 lakh hectares during 2000-2001.

The trend continued till 2004-05 when area under banana cultivation rose to 1.13 lakh hectares.

In the following year it diminished marginally to 1.12 lakh hectares.

Kerala produced an estimated 4.35 lakh tonnes of bananas during 2008-09 at the productivity rate of 7,965 kgs per hectare.

Scientists at Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council, who track vegetable and banana prices on a daily basis, say that there is no local banana produce, especially njalipoovan, available in most Kerala markets.

VFPCK data records local sourcing of njalipoovan only in Kozhikode, Kalpetta and Palakkad markets on July 20.

Rise in prices

Meanwhile, the price of nendran variety has moved up from Rs. 28 a kg in February to Rs. 40 a kg this week. The price of poovan variety has gone up from Rs. 30 a kg in February to Rs. 38 a kg while the price of robusta variety has gone up from Rs. 16 a kg to Rs. 20 during the period.

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