There are now tensions between India and Nepal over a territorial dispute. This means that approximately 100,000 pineapple farmers, mostly living in the Darjeeling and North Dinajpur districts of West Bengal, are staring at huge losses.
The pineapple belt in North Bengal is spread over some 25,000 ha, and export of the fruit to Nepal in the June to August period alone is worth Rs 400 mln (€480,000). But given the changing equation with Kathmandu, fruits, vegetables, salt and other supplies going by trucks from the Panitanki transit point in Darjeeling are not finding as friendly a reception in Nepalese markets as earlier. Bengal’s farmers, though a tad disappointed initially, now say they would rather bear the slump in business than “swallow the insult” meted out to their country.
Badal Sarkar, a pineapple grower whose six-acre farm in Darjeeling district yields a bumper crop every year, says he is staring at a loss of Rs 800,000-1 mln (€9,600-12,000) this year. “What can I do when Nepal is no longer friendly with us? They have been rejecting our vegetables since last year on the ground that these are not organic. And now, they have more reasons to turn down our fruits. We were not fully aware of the political developments, but now feel that we should explore other markets,” says Sarkar.