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Tamil Nadu farmers go bananas over tropical cash crop.
Jan 21, 2022

With 6% increase in the area under cultivation between 2019-20 and 2020-21, banana is turning out to be a sought-after crop for farmers across Tamil Nadu. For two financial years in a row, the state has achieved yields of close to 40 lakh tonnes.
For the record, India is the world’s largest producer of bananas, accounting for more than 25% of the global yield and the country exported bananas worth Rs660 crore in 2019-20. Tamil Nadu is the fourth largest banana producing state in the country.
In the past five years, there has been 32% increase in banana production in the state. Tamil Nadu exports the fruit to South Korea, Europe and South Africa, mainly from Theni region as it produces the best quality banana in the state.
Even as there is an increase in area under cultivation across Tamil Nadu, from 92,413 hectares to 97,644 hectares, it is a matter of concern for farmers and the horticultural department that the productivity per hectare has dropped from 43. 1 tonnes to 40. 8 tonnes and the overall production has remained the same at close to 40 lakh tonnes. Excessive rain and damage to the crop in many regions, especially the central districts, is to be blamed for the fall in production.
Theni district, however, presents a different picture. AddiS Tamilvendan said, though the area under cultivation in Theni is less than some other districts, it is the highest in terms of productivity and has been chosen for the scheme of the central government. Branding of Theni banana is in the pipeline, he said.
Theni district has been witnessing fluctuation in the crop coverage over the past five years, Deputy director of horticulture M Pandi said, while the crop was cultivated only in 5,525 hectares in Theni in 2016-2017, it went up to 6,122 hectares in 2020-2021, generating a yield of 4. 2 lakh metric tonnes. Impact farming, where farmers follow their peers, and use of technology enhanced production, he said.
K Srinivasan, former deputy director, said some farmers in Theni are making profits of nearly Rs2. 5 lakh per acre. A bunch weighs 40kg to 45kg in Theni region, he said, adding that productivity in Theni is among the highest across the globe.
However, it is Erode that is among the largest producers of banana in the state. The crop is cultivated in 15,272 hectares in the district and generates a yield of 5. 6 lakh metric tonnes per annum. Tuticorin, Coimbatore and Trichy districts also have sizeable banana plantations. Neypoovan, Nendran, Poovan, Rasthali and Karpooravalli are the main varieties cultivated by farmers in Trichy.
Officials in the horticulture department said crop cover- age in Trichy region has dropped by 1,197. 5 acres during the current financial year. 'Continuous downpour during the northeast monsoon is the main reason for the reduction in crop coverage in Trichy,' said C Vimala, deputy director of horticulture, Trichy.
Alwarthirunagari, Srivaikuntam and Karungulam blocks in Tuticorin district have covered 8,345 hectares under banana cultivation till December. It is expected to touch 8,800 hectares in the next three months, said district collector K Senthil Raj. 'We are motivating farmers to opt for banana cultivation as the 10-month cash crop is highly remunerative compared to paddy cultivation,' he said.
President of the Banana Prodistrict, A R Narayanasamy said many farmers have turned to banana cultivation after trying their hand at vegetables, because banana is a low-maintenance crop when compared to others. 'Cost of cultivation is more or less the same, but work load is much lower compared to other crops. Fertigation (supply of fertilizers through drip lines) has reduced cost of labour too,' he said.
Excessive production pulling down the price of the commodity in the market is a matter of concern at times, he said. Farmers are in the process of forming farmer producer companies to get better benefits.
'A uniform price throughout the year will be most beneficial,' he said. Granaine or G-9, and red banana are Theni’s star varieties. The production of G-9 increased by 14% and red bananas by 61% last year. However, the production of the common variety called Nadu has dipped by 25%.
P Patchaimal, chairman of Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Theni, said all varieties of bananas are now being used for value addition, especially for the production of banana powder in baby food. It is exported and sold in the domestic market too, he said.
The National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB), established in Trichy in 1993, has been working on crop improvement, production and post-harvest management. The institute is playing a vital role in identifying farmers, entrepreneurs, FPOs and other stakeholders in banana production and related enterprises.
The research centre had played a role in increasing the national crop coverage by 7. 5%, production by 6. 8% and productivity by 17. 2% in the past five years. Today, banana cultivation and related businesses contribute about Rs10 lakh crore turnover in India. The Centre has been supplying quality and virusfree planting material to banana growers. It has supplied 600 million tissue culture banana plants to farmers since 2007, said S Uma, director of NRCB.