1. Agriculture World

Why Pineapple Growers in Kerala are Shifting to ‘MD2’ Variety?

Abha Toppo
Abha Toppo

A rising export demand has impelled pineapple growers in Kerala’s to focus on the globally accepted MD2 variety due to its better suitability for processing & extended shelf-life, when compared with the traditional Mauritius grades.

It must be noted that Kerala produces 4 lakh tonnes of GI-tagged Vazhakkulam pineapple (Mauritius grade) in about 40,000 acres. But, the share of exports was very minimal with barely 0.5 %. Much part of the produce goes into the fresh fruit segment in the domestic market, where the demand is nearly 100 tonnes per day during festival seasons & 60 to 70 tonnes in other seasons.

Executive Director of Pineapple Growers & Processing Company Ltd, Baby John said the MD2 variety is mostly preferred in the export market because of its long shelf-life of 30 days and the Vazhakkulam pineapple has got hardly 10 to 12 days life. In spite of surging demand, pineapple shipments in Kerala have few takers abroad, due to its shorter shelf-life.

The fruit characteristics of MD2 variety with its cylindrical form, flat eyes & thin core are most suitable for processing as well as exports. Although Vazhakulam pineapple has got GI tag about 9 years back, its production & export has not been initiated under this brand, John said.

kerala pineapple

Former HOD of the Pineapple Research Station, Kerala Agriculture University PP Joy said, “What is required is to ensure the availability of sufficient planting materials & shifting of 20 to 25 % area presently under traditional pineapple cultivation to MD2 variety farming to enhance processing and exports”. He added the government, with a focus on exports, must also encourage farming of this variety in larger areas with buyback contract.

It is indicated that the global trade in pineapple is around 50% as fresh fruit, 30% as canned product & 20% as juice concentrate. Although India is the world’s sixth largest pineapple producer, its share in the international market is negligible.

Baby John said pineapple cultivation has emerged as an agri-business in Kerala, acquiring a turnover of Rs. 800 crore. Since 90% of the cultivation is done on leased lands, there is a need for enacting laws for lease land farming. The authorities must come out with a policy document for lease land cultivation so that the government-owned land can be used effectively.

Given that the MD2 variety is not cultivated on a huge scale, a government support via tie-ups with food processing companies will improve its production. A number of companies have already shown interest in buyback arrangements. The production cost of pineapple that is presently at Rs. 18 per kg, has also started moving up because of rise in input costs such as manure, pesticides etc, he told.

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