Kuruvila Joseph, 69, of Tharappel, a progressive planter at Meppadi in Wayanad district, has set a successful model in cultivating exotic fruits such as lychee, rambutan and mangosteen.
Mr. Joseph turned to exotic fruits cultivation after the massive destruction of pepper vines on his plantation a few decades ago.
The low cost of cultivation and maintenance, lower incidence of pest and disease attacks comparing to pepper vines are the major advantages of fruit cultivation in the district, Mr. Joseph said.
He is cultivating the fruit plants as an intercrop with coffee and cardamom.
The seasonal difference in the harvest of the fruits is an added advantage to the farmers in the district. May to June is the right season for lychee harvesting in other parts of the country but the fruit becomes ready for harvest in Wayanad by the middle of December, he said.
This difference would help farmers fetch a premium price for their produce, he said. As the temperate climate and fertile soil in the hill district are quite suitable for the growth of exotic fruit plants, the cultivation will help provide a sustainable income to farmers, he added.
“I have planted as many as 18 lychee plants on my orchard and I am getting an average of 200 kg of fruits from each plant,” he said adding that he was getting an average of ₹400 a kg.
He has also cultivated as many as 800 mangosteen plants and is getting an average of 50 kg of fruits from each 15-year-old plant. While farmers in other districts harvest the fruit from May to July, the harvest takes place in Wayanad from July to October.
While ryots in other districts get ₹120 to ₹150 a kg for the fruits, farmers in Wayanad get ₹300 to ₹350 a kg owing to the seasonal difference, he said.
His son Joseph K. Tharappel and his partner Maria Kidangalil sell the fruits after quality assurance under the brand Back To Roots through premium outlets of super markets in metros across the country after collecting them from farmers in the district at a premium price.
Mr. Joseph is also cultivating avocado, dragon fruit and pulasan on his plantation.
According to him, rambutan and mangosteen are better options for farmers owing to their long shelf life.
‘We have launched a farmer producer company named Wayanad Innovative Farmers Producing Company and we are planning to set up an exotic fruits auction centre to lend a hand to fruit farmers in the district at a later stage,” he said.