Kerala looks for ways to earn more from pineapples

Kochi, Feb 7 (IANS) Farmers, traders and Kerala government officials are meeting on Sunday in a ‘Pineapple Fest’ to find ways to better produce and market the fruit which fetches the state Rs.750 crore annually.

The state accounts for 70 per cent of India’s pineapple production, but has yet to make a mark in the overseas market and has not had much success in value added products like juice concentrate, candies, halwa and dry fruits.

At Pineapple Fest, held over February 5-7 at Vazhakulam in Ernakulam district here, the state government has invited potential buyers from South-east Asian and Middle Eastern countries to see for themselves the business opportunities inherent in Kerala’s annual production of 3.5 lakh tonnes of pineapples.

A big boost to Kerala’s pineapple farmers and traders came in 2009 when a particular variety of the fruit grown in Vazhakulam got the Geographical Indication (GI) label.

Since then most of the state’s pineapple output benefits by the name of ‘Vazhakulam pineapple’.

Experts said that further branding of GI-labelled Vazhakulam pineapple is the first step to boost the market for the fruit in India and abroad.

“Our product is far superior in taste to others and we have decided to give this product a branding. Unless we do it, we just cannot compete and for that we will soon look out for a brand ambassador,” Ismail Rawther, director, Kerala Pineapple Mission, told IANS.

He said the Kerala Agricultural University is also ready with new technologies to increase the shelf life of fresh pineapples.

One big impediment in better marketing of Kerala’s pineapples overseas is the cost of production as compared to South East Asian countries, Jose Kalapura, the president of the Pineapple Farmers Association, told IANS.

“While the market price for the farmer here ranges between Rs.15 and Rs.25, the cost of production hovers around Rs.20. In South East Asian countries, the cost of production is just Rs.10,” said Kalapura.

Rawther said pineapples from South East Asia have a much longer shelf life than Kerala’s, giving them an advantage in the export market.

An Amul-model of farmer ownership collective would give a fillip to Vazhakulam pineapple in the global arena, said Navas Meeran, chairman, Eastern Group of Companies, which is into the spices and condiments business.

“Instead of waiting for the industrialists to chip in, the farmers should take initiatives in making value-added products from pineapple with the help of global consultancy agencies,” said Meeran.

P.P.Joy, director, Pineapple Research Station, Vazhakkulam, said embracing newer technologies to make value-added products like juice concentrate, candies, halwas and dry fruits would go a long way in cracking the global market.

Just penetrating the Middle Eastern market could increase the state’s pineapple business five times from its current turnover, added Rawther.

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