The Kerala Pineapple Mission, after nearly two years in the making, will get under way on Thursday.
Farmers have set high expectations after the mission stated its goal of “addressing the A to Z” of pineapple business. Minister for Agriculture K.P. Mohanan will launch the mission on Thursday at Vazhakkulam, the heart of pineapple business in the State.
“If the mission works according to its stated objectives and plans that have been firmed up it will be a great boost to the pineapple business in the State,” said John Kalappurakkal, president of Pineapple Farmers’ Association, which represents around 2,000 farmers in the State.
“The mission’s aim is to take Kerala pineapple, renowned for its aroma and taste, to the world market and establish it firmly there,” said V.V. Pushpangadan, Additional Director of Agriculture and Special Officer, Pineapple Mission.
He said the mission would address all issues related to pineapple cultivation, marketing and ensure farmers get remunerative prices in the face of serious challenges posed by frequent fluctuation in prices.
Increasing production, expanding export and product diversification are key areas the mission will immediately focus on. Though known for its qualities as a fresh fruit, pineapple from Vazhakkulam and neighbouring areas have not succeeded in capturing the export market in a big way. The reasons behind this lack of success is expected to be taken up immediately.
Minister for Finance K.M. Mani had announced plans to set up the Pineapple Mission in the 2012-13 Budget and set aside Rs.1 crore for the initial work. Mr. Pushpangadan said formalities such as registration of the mission and constitution of the governing council had been completed.
Meanwhile, the price of pineapple continues to be remunerative for the farmers at Rs.28 a kg for the best quality ripe fruit at Vazhakkulam.
The price of raw fruits, being exported to centres such as Delhi, was Rs.26 a kg while fruits of lower grade were being sold at an average Rs.24 a kg.
“Though farmers have reported about 30 per cent crop loss and damage on account of incessant rain in July and August, the effects have tapered off now,” said Baby John, a farmer in Moovattupuzha. Fruit quality was expected to improve now, he said.
The consistent wet weather during the evenings and sunshine during the day had improved the quality and weight of the fruit, which in themselves was boosting profitability by about 30 per cent, he said. Kerala produces around three lakh tonnes of pineapple a year from approximately 13,000 hectares of cultivated area.