Banana farmers in the district have started showing much interest in the cultivation of the ‘Grand naine' variety following its popularity as a delicious fruit.

The high-yielding Grand naine variety was introduced to India from Israel seven years ago. But the farmers were reluctant to promote it as they were wary of its acceptance by the consumers. As time passed, they saw the variety as a successful commercial crop.

The demand for the Grand naine bananas is steadily growing in the markets and the farmers are gearing up to meet it, said V. Ajikumar, superintendent of the district panchayat's Kottukkal Farm.

Grand naine in French means “large dwarf” and true to its name, this variety is not very tall but produces bunches that is almost three-fourths its size with each having more than 200 fruits.

Grand naine banana bunches while on the plant closely resembles the Robusta bananas in size and colour. But when they ripen they turn yellow.

Mr. Ajikumar said the Grand naine bananas have a shelf life which is much longer than the Robusta. While the latter tend to drop from the bunch in two to three days after ripening, the former stay intact on the bunch for more than two weeks after ripening, maintaining their peculiar aroma and taste. It is this quality of the Grand naine which has made them appealing to farmers, markets and consumers.

Agricultural officer Hareendranath said that during the Onam season the bananas fetched Rs.16 a kg for the farmer. With prices of all banana varieties falling now, farmers now sell Grand naines for Rs.10 a kg.