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India: Banana growers looking to lucrative export marketsDr. Vadivel, Professor of Horticulture at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore and Nodal Officer of Tamil Nadu Precision Farming Project has been instrumental in modernizing the production system of bananas in the southern part of India and transformation of banana cultivation into an industry.
The project ‘Supply Chain Management’ in collaboration with Michigan State University, USA, between 2004-07, helped to empower the banana farmers technically, economically, socially and to get linked to direct markets. At the beginning of the project, growers were taken to mega markets across the country and visited major national and international trade fairs to sensitize them on how bananas were sorted, graded, packaged and sold at various regions and what the preferences are of the different consumers.
Workshops were organized on various aspects of the banana production and trade including Supply Chain Management; these workshops inspired one of the growers Mr.A.P.Karuppiah to invest in cold chain infrastructure and introduce a hi-tech production system, harvesting processes with least damage, vacuum packing for long distance transport, storage and ripening chambers with the latest state of the art technology and seven reefer vans to get the bananas to the markets. He now supplies through 120 market outlets in the major cities of three states.
The income of this farmer has grown to Rs.2.00 lakhs per acre and the area planted has increased from 4000 acres to 20,000 acres.
Through intervention of M/S Nader and Ebrahim Co, a Philippines Company, bananas are now being exported to Europe between the period of January and June around two 40 foot container loads per month.
Dr Vadivel is also behind an yet another essential business project of taking Tamil Nadu bananas to Northern parts of the country by introducing a regular refrigerated train service from Salem to Agra. The train will carry bananas, mangos, coconuts, spices, papaya, guavas, eggs and other poultry products for the northern markets and bring back apples, potato, onion, oranges and dry fruits. Tamil Nadu banana growers can expand their markets to Northern India and ensure supply through out year.
The domestic market is most attractive to the banana growers at the moment. The population has doubled in all metro cities in India in recent years due to urbanization coupled with enhanced purchasing power of middle class families and salaried employees. Both these developmental phenomenon create steep demand for larger volumes of healthy horticultural produces year round. According to Dr Vadivel, when the growers are able to produce bananas of international quality and can sell them on the domestic market for a price better than export price, why should they target consumers and markets abroad? The domestic demand itself shall continue to grow for another decade. But he continues, "there is no harm in exploiting the Japanese market for the Ney Poovan variety (Senorita in Japan) by cultivating it exclusively for export as the price in Yen is five times more than domestic Indian market price for this variety.
Dr Vadivel said that the 25% of Indian bananas are produced in Tamil Nadu. The area under the Grand Naine variety has been increased to 20,000 acres recently to meet the domestic demand and shall increase to 40,000 acres in two years. This would go some way to supplying the domestic market. The grower's organisations have also been approached by Dole, but the growers declined to supply them because the price offered was too low.
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