Mounting losses add to Kerala pineapple growers’ stress

Kochi, Aug 22 : Pineapple growers in Kerala have been hit hard as fruit prices continue to nosedive amid the coronavirus pandemic, and have appealed from help from the Centre and the state.

Amid the crisis, pineapple grower KK Anil committed suicide at Vazhakulam near here on Friday.

His son Abhijith said that his father could not bear the losses that had accumulated to Rs 50 lakh since the start of the pandemic and thus took his own life.

James George, President of All Kerala Pineapple Farmers Association, said any delay in help from the central and state governments could lead to "disastrous consequences" for the growers.

"Around 5.4 lakh tonnes of the fruit is produced in Kerala every year from nearly 18,000 hectares of land under pineapple cultivation.

For the last 8 to 10 years, the average turnover from this sector has been Rs 1,250 crore per year," said George.

Leased land accounts for most of these 18,000 hectares, with growers heavily dependent on banks and other institutional loans for cultivation.

There are more than 5,000 pineapple growers in Kerala, who bear a cost of around Rs 6.25 lakh per hectare to grow the fruit.

"Pineapple cultivation has been severely affected of late.

Things were worsening for us since the 2018 and 2019 floods. It was Covid-19 in 2020. Due to the pandemic, pineapple prices have nosedived to Rs 2.5 to Rs 5 per kg, as against production cost of Rs 23-24 per kg," George lamented.

"Currently, the growers' exposure to loans adds up to Rs 450 crore.

Not a single grower has been able to service his debt. Considering the situation, we urge both the central and state governments to initiate quick and appropriate action, including write-off of loans of loanees with good track record, restructuring loan repayments of the remaining growers, besides minimum support price of Rs 25 per kg, and revival of foo-processing units for value addition to the yield," Pineapple Farmers Association leader said.

He also pointed out that Covid-19 had led to exodus of migrant labour in large numbers from Kerala, which had further hit the sector.

Pineapple cultivation provides around 330 working days for an average of 5 to 8 persons per hectare in a year.

The total employment assured by this sector in Kerala comes to 240 per hectare per year with average wage of Rs 600 per day, which is highest compared with those of other agricultural labourers.



Source: IANS