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Covid-19 brings bitter times for pineapple farmers in West Bengal

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Pineapple growers stare at heavy losses this year.SILIGURI/ BIDHANNAGAR: The nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be costly for pineapple growers in Bidhannagar, a region which contributes over 1/3 to the annual yield of India.

“It will be even tougher for all in pineapple trade. Heavy loss of this year will compel many ground level farmers to shift from pineapple. This will bring in sea change in the whole trade,” apprehended Arun Mandal, CEO of Camanas Farmers Producers Co Ltd and Secretary of
Pineapple Growers Association of Bidhannagar.

As the market statistics go, with around 6 lakh Metric Ton (MT) annual production in almost 20,000 ha land, Bidhannagar in the foothills of northern West Bengal contributes around 80% to Bengal’s output which is near half of India’s total 20 lakh MT yield. India is the fifth largest contributor to the global production of around 275 lakh MT.

“Despite having major importer Bangladesh at stone throw distance, our export is zero. Without processing facility nearby, we are dependent on Delhi for 80% of our production. The lock down brought down price to around 30% of normal level causing heavy loss for current harvest cycle output of around 50,000 MT,” said Mandal.

“The batch at present on ground had grossly inadequate care due to shortage of workforce during lockdown. Naturally its quality will not be good enough to ensure adequate price realization,” said Paran Ghosh, a farmer and trader.

“Above all, no one is sure on how the future market will behave. The common idea of juicy fruits to be strong career of disease may increase manifold,” he added.

“Farmers, mostly with low loss-bearing capacity, will not be able to withstand all these shocks together and shift from pineapple giving the overall golden trade a major negative shift,” said Mandal.

“The answer is easy micro finance, proper technical guidance, development of local processing industry and generic export oriented promotion by Govt. We are trying to initiate a situation analysis and future road map preparation process for these fruits of north Bengal once the lockdown is over,” said CII North Bengal chapter Chairman Sanjit Saha.


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