Taking baby steps banana growers show state way to diversification

For a state that consumes bananas worth Rs 600 crore every year, it may still be a dream to even think of achieving self sufficiency in the fruit's production. However, the state farmers have started taking baby steps in the direction producing just over one per cent of the total fruit consumed in less than four years after taking up the fruit cultivation as part of crop diversification measures.

So much so that farmers, who had taken to banana cultivation in 2008, now claim to be earning Rs 2.5 lakh per acre in profits while selling the produce directly to the end consumers.

Two of the farmers, Sushil Kumar Malhotra and Mewa Singh Kular — general secretary and president of Banana Growers Association respectively— who have taken a lead in cultivating the fruit at their 3.5 acre farm say selling the produce directly to the end consumers has helped them earn huge profits.

"In mandis we get rs 10 for a kilo of ripe banana. However, since we market it directly to sports academies and retailers directly we get Rs 20 per kilo," Malhotra said, adding that the farmers have even got a ripening chamber installed at Kular village.

Members of the association claim that the banana cultivation began from Kular village in 2008 and is now being by more than 50 farmers in villages in Jagraon and Boparai.

The members say that the Punjab government should follow the pattern adopted by major banana producing satates such as Gujarat and Maharashtra and provide monitory assistance to the farmers. Apart from the subsidy granted to the farmers under the National Horticulture Mission, the state governments give a financial assistance to the banana growers.

According to the association members, most of the fruit demand in Punjab is met by states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar and Karnataka.

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