Unfortunately, there is still uncertainty over the availability of trained migrant workers for the Punjab kinnow season that starts in November. Although a bumper crop is expected, growers seem to be hesitant to finalise contracts for wholesale purchase with traders.
Harvesting is done by farm workers from districts of Punjab and from Sriganganagar in Rajasthan, but the real worry for industry is labour of sorting, grading, waxing and packaging. For this, fruit growers in Abohar, the hub for kinnow cultivation in India, mostly rely upon workers from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh and workers from Gujarat and Bihar. The kinnow industry employs around 8,000 such workers.
Punjab leads the country in the cultivation of kinnow, with the Abohar belt of Fazilka district alone contributing up to 60% to the state’s total production. The fruit is cultivated on nearly 33,000 hectare in Punjab. Last season, the Abohar belt produced more than 500,000 tonne of kinnows.
Punjab Agri Export Corporation (PAEC) general manager Ranbir Singh said the state government was working on providing logistic support for kinnow growers.
“PAEC has five common facilitation centres in Fazilka and Muktsar districts, whereas washing, grading and waxing will be done at 75 paise/kg. We will also provide packaging on demand-based orders from farmers. A newly-established facility in Abohar is equipped with a state-of-the-art features to process harvested kinnow. The plant has a capacity to handle 15 tonnes of fruit in an hour.”