Following on the successful export of Khasi mandarin last year,the Department of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare, Government of Meghalaya and Meghalaya Basin Management Agency (MBMA) has recently facilitated market linkages of over 1.3 tonnes of Pineapples to the Middle East. This is part of the continued efforts to reduce the gulf between the farmers of the state and lucrative international markets. The pineapples from Meghalaya are being sold across malls in Dubai, Kuwait and Sharjah, but more importantly our farmers are enjoying the fruit of their labour with up to 2 times increase in price realisation from these trades.
The efforts closer home have resulted in sustained market linkages with domestic processors and retailers. Last year, over 40 tonnes of pineapples were shipped to a Karnataka based processor to be further exported to European and North American markets. This year, the same processor has established a mobile processing unit at Umdihar IVCS, in Umdihar Village (Ri Bhoi) for taking in larger quantities and over 23 tonnes of Pineapples have been processed by the unit in the first week of its operation.
The processing units require pineapples weighing a kilogram and above and don’t accept fruits of smaller sizes. During harvest season, entire fields are harvested for sale, but only the large pineapples (Grade A) get sold to the processing units. This leaves the farmers with a large quantity of smaller sized pineapples (Grade B aka table variety). Since the ripening accelerates post-harvest, these table-variety pineapples are often sold at throw away prices. To mitigate distress sale of these table-variety pineapples, the department is actively exploring market linkages with local retailers and have recently established linkages with Reliance Retail stores across Guwahati for sale of table-variety pineapples from Meghalaya. As a result of this intervention the farmers are now able to get over 2 times the price for the table-variety pineapples.
The Meghalaya pineapples are famous for their high-sugar content (brix value of 16-18) and low sourness. The pineapples in the State are mostly being cultivated without any use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, resulting in significantly lower heavy metal and pesticide residue in the fruit. These traits make them highly suitable for lucrative international and national markets. However, for long the trade has been dominated by middlemen and traders who often ‘book bagaans’ (farm fields) months before harvest season by paying the farmers a lumpsum amount. The farmers, having poor access to market information and needing money before the festive season and onset of school semester, unwillingly ‘book’ their farms at a fraction of the cost of the fruits on their farm.
Being cognizant of the challenges and issues being faced by the farmers of the State, the government has been actively working towards building community-centric, grassroot level solutions. These efforts are slowly coming to fruition now. The government has been working towards mobilising the farmers to form farmer cooperatives and farmer producer organisations (FPOs) across the state and over 350 such collectives have been formed in the last 3 years. The Department and MBMA have been hand-holding these collectives so that they are able to replace the middlemen and transition to better production and marketing. For instance, the recent consignment of over 1.3 tonnes of Pineapples shipped to Middle East was undertaken by the ‘Silchang Dimrimbri Palwa Adling IVCS’ of East Garo Hills District. This was the first time that the farmer collective had undertaken an international trade and this was only made possible by the active support of the Department and MBMA.
To further promote and build the market for Meghalaya’s pineapples, the government is organising a Pineapple festival in Delhi. The festival will be held post the celebrations of Independence Day and will provide an opportunity to Delhiites to enjoy the fine pineapples (aka fineapples) of our State.