Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Mahabanana of India

Banana is one of the most common fruits and it is practically eaten the world over. They are grown in at least 120 countries, primarily for their fruit, and to a lesser extent for their fibre, banana wine and in some countries as ornamental plants.
In 2013 bananas were fourth among the main world food crops after rice, wheat and maize. There is not much to distinguish banana from plantains and India is the world’s leading producer.
Of the 150 million tones, India produced 30 million and thus she shares twenty per cent of the world production. Unfortunately, India exports only a negligible percentage as  a majority of the fruits is consumed within the country itself.
Banana (Musa sp.) is the second most important fruit crop in India next to mango. It is available year around, affordable, varietal in taste, nutritive and also has medicinal and religious value. No wonder, it is a favourite among all classes of people.
It is generally believed that bananas originated in south east Asia, including India. The National Horticulture Board says bananas  accounts for 13 per cent of the total area cultivated and constitute 33 per cent of the production of fruits.
Banana production is highest in Maharashtra (3924.1 thousand tones) followed by Tamil Nadu (3543.8 thousand tonnes). This year, Tamil Nadu has overtaken Maharashtra in banana production. However, Maharashtra has the highest productivity of 65.70 metric tones /ha as against national average of 30.5 tonnes/ha. It accounts for 25 per cent of the national production. The other major banana producing States are Karnataka (1277 thousand tonnes), Gujarat (1154), Andhra Pradesh (1111), Madhya Pradesh (736) and Assam (605).       
However, Maharashtra has given a lot of importance for banana cultivation. It has also set up an exclusive cooperative for bananas and it is called MAHABANANA. The Agriculture Marketing Board of Maharashtra (MSAMB)  has established Mahabanana,  the farmers’ marketing organization in 2002 with its headquarters at Jalgaon. There are 26 co-operative societies registered under Mahabanana and each such member society has 300 to 350 small and marginal farmers. About 8000 farmers have enrolled themselves as members under the organization.
Mahabanana has initiated efforts for coordinated banana growth, cultivation, transport and export. The MSAMB has proposed to establish two modern packhouses in banana growing belt of  Jalgaon and Hingoli respectively. The pack house includes automatic banana conveyor system, pre-cooling, cold storage and  ripening chamber.
With the help of MSAMB, Mahabanana has taken up trial export of  Banana to Dubai for the last three years. As of now, just  0.05 per cent of domestic production is exported and the rest is consumed within the country mostly as a table fruit. However, domestic marketing is largely unorganized. The marketing chain from producer to customer involves four to five intermediaries, thus denying the producer and consumer a fair price besides adding to the marketing margins paid by the consumers.
Today, Jalgaon district has shown the way for the country in setting up a well organized banana industry. This has been achieved by adopting high density planting and single crop cultivation method. Besides meeting the demands for all the markets of Maharashtra state, on an average 12000 to 15000 wagon loads are transported every year to Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi . Moreover, bananas are also transported by road to Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan.
Though banana is the main fruit in international trade and the most popular one, ranking second after citrus in terms of value, main banana producing countries, such as India or Brazil, are hardly involved in it. Therefore, there is a lot of catching up to do for India in the world market.  
Bananas are imported mainly by the European Union, the United States of America and Japan, which together accounted for about 70 per cent of world total imports, while the first ten banana importing countries represented more than 86 per cent of total imports (considering the EU as a whole). Markets such as the Russian Federation , China or Easter European countries are emerging now as destinations for banana exports.
India exports bananas mainly to Middle East countries of U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar . The varieties which are in demand internationally include Grand Naine and Cavendish.
However, the low export is due to non-ideal post harvest practices, inadequate transport, lack of proper storage facilities and outdated banana handling practices .
Due to mishandling of produce about 25-40 per cent is being wasted and only 2 per cent  is processed into value added products, the remaining being used in the raw form. This often leads to sharp variation in prices.
Moreover, there is no large scale product diversification of banana and only a few industries exists for utilising the fruits for dehydration, chips making and preparing infant foods. Processing of banana for preparation of derivative products is an emerging area today since bananas can be pulped, juiced or concentrated, canned, sliced and dried. Beverages such as banana wine and banana brandy as also vinegar can be made economically.
Apart from the Vedas, the first mention of the bananas is in Buddhist texts of 600 BC. It is mentioned as a highly nutritive food. The Buddhist chronicles describe a beverage derived from banana which the monks were allowed to drink.
Travelagues of 327 BC mention that the Alexander the Great discovered the taste of banana in the valleys of India

1 comment:

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