The price of banana has more than doubled in the past two months.
While the Tamil Nadu Banana Growers’ Federation anticipated that it would further go up by 10-15 per cent, merchants said that there was no question of any further surge in prices.
T.M. Rajamanickam, a major banana commission agent here, pointed out that the price of poovan variety, which was selling around Rs. 5 a kg in November 2012, rose to Rs. 8 the next month and had now touched Rs. 15. In 2011, the maximum it fetched was only Rs 10.
Similarly, the price of rasthali which was Rs. 10 per kg is now hovering between Rs.15 and Rs. 20 a kg. The price of karpooravalli, which was Rs. 7-8 per kg last year, is now around Rs. 13 a kg. Tiruchi market receives banana from Thottiyam, Kulithalai, Mohanur, Kattuputhur, Musiri, Manachanallur, Lalgudi, Thirukkattuppalli, Pudukottai and Madurai.
Mr. Rajamanickam attributed hike in prices to poor arrivals. “There is a shortfall of 35 per cent. However, the current demand will not last beyond Thaipoosam (January 26) as Palani requires substantial quantity for panchamirtham,” he said.
G. Ajeethan, general secretary of the federation, said the major reason was that planting had not been done at least in 20 per cent of the total banana area of two lakh acres in the State. In the tsunami-affected Cuddalore district, more than 30,000 acres had not been planted at all.
He said that the fear of water scarcity, especially in the Cauvery dependent districts like Erode, Namakkal, Karur, Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Pudukottai and Perambalur, was definitely haunting the farmers. “Banana requires an investment of Rs. 50,000 per acre and is a water-intensive and labour-intensive crop.”
The water demand would virtually double if the temperature, which was hovering below 30 degree Centigrade now, touched 35 degree C. A banana fruit required 200 litres of water, he said.
The major reason for banana being raised in the Cauvery banks was the moisture content in the soil due to the aquifers. With nil flow in the Cauvery, the situation looked bleak and the total area might slump in the Cauvery belt, he said. He hoped that the State government would help the banana growers by paying the insurance premium for non-loanees also. Besides, he wanted the Agricultural Insurance Company (AIC) to adopt village-level assessment instead of firkha-level assessment for deciding the percentage of loss.
S. Suryanarayanan, Administrative Officer, AIC, said that there was a provision for including any block in Tiruchi district under the “localised loss assessment” of banana crops wherein even a “headcount” of affected fields was permitted. He felt that the Modified National Agriculture Insurance Scheme would be immensely beneficial to the banana growers.
He said the loanee farmers would have to pay only 3.9 per cent of the sum insured because an equal amount was borne both by the Centre and the State.