INDIA: Tamil Nadu eyes market as European kids go bananas over fruit

A recent study conducted among children in Europe found they favoured the Indian Red banana and Njalipoovan or Ney Poovan (Elakki), bringing hope to farmers in Tamil Nadu. Significantly, the National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB), Tiruchy is expecting an inspection by European agencies to sanction the export of bananas to European countries.


“We are expecting the inspection and certification for export to the European market in the coming months. They are demanding minimum or clean handling so the fruit will not have bruises. Therefore, a conveyor belt has been developed to ensure the clean handling of bananas from the field to the warehouse,” said S Uma, director, NRCB.


Tamil Nadu farmers could benefit due to the spread of Fusarium wilt (a fungal disease) in Indonesia, a major exporter of bananas. The disease has led to international markets avoiding bananas from Indonesia. The resultant supply vacuum means Tamil Nadu farmers could be in the right place to fill the void.


Uma said, “Initially, export costs were too high for our farmers. So, NRCB in partnership with Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Delhi and Fair Exports (India) Pvt. Ltd., Kochi under public-private partnership (PPP) exported Nendran bananas to Dubai. Now, the bananas are easily available at Lulu Hyper Mall in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In fact, we are exporting about 40 tonnes of banana every week. This apart, our bananas are now regarded as better than Indonesian ones.”


However, the absence of an APEDA-certified packing unit in Tamil Nadu has turned out to be a challenge for farmers in the State. APEDA certification ensures quality packing of produce. “Maharashtra farmers have 20 certified packing units for exports. Though banana farmers in our State have shown export potential, the lack of a certified packing unit in Tamil Nadu is a challenge. The government has to speed up its efforts for setting up certified packing units in the State,” said G Ajeethan, secretary, Tamil Nadu Banana Growers Federation.


Bananas are now being cultivated in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, not traditionally known for growing the fruit. The current demand for bananas globally could benefit Maharashtra if Tamil Nadu fails to come up with a certified packing unit. Therefore, farmers from the State are looking for the intervention of the government.


Written by Jose K. Joseph, New Indian Express

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