The kinnow farmers in Punjab are witnessing a huge drop in revenues this year as prices of the citrus fruit have went into a free fall owing to a bumper crop and lack of facility to get the fruits processed or exported to other markets. With the crop largely remaining disease free,kinnow output in Punjab is set to cross 9 lakh tonnes.
The kinnow farmers are blaming the government for not making the Ultra Modern Kinnow Juice Unit at Hoshiarpur functional in time. The plant,set up four years ago to process state produced kinnow,is still to get functional even as kinnow harvesting season is about to be over. Kinnow harvesting starts in December and goes on till March
With the plant remaining shut,and there being a glut in the market,farmers are now going for duistress sale of the crop. The fruit is being sold at Rs 8 to 10 per kg,much lower than last years Rs 12 to 15 per kg. Ironically,the traders are selling the crop in retail market for Rs 20-25 per kg. It is quite surprising that kinnows are being sold to retail customers at last years rate of Rs 20-25 per kg and traders are minting the money by paying lower rates to farmers, Punjab Horticulture Deputy Director Gurkamal Singh said.
Another reason for drop in rates for Kinnow is heavy arrival of orange from Maharashtra which has also seen higher production this year. Lack of potential export market is also said to have impacted kinnow prices.
Most kinnow farmers prefers to sell the crop at his farm instead bearing the transportation expenses. This is the reason why middlemen are providing better rates, said Jagtar Singh,a kinnow farmer in Hoshiarpur.
Had the juice unit being made operational,farmers could have made some profit, a state horticulture officer said,adding that smaller fruits are normally sent to juice factories while the bigger ones are sold in retail market.
The horticulture department,sources said,has already requested the Punjab Agro-Industries Corporation,which is looking after the juice plant,to get it functional but to no avail.
Managing director,Punjab Agro,Sanjay Kumar,confirmed that the Hoshiarpur juice plant is still not operational. We are trying to get it running as we have got some good orders for kinnow juice, he said,adding that the Punjab Agro does not procure kinnow directly as it packages the juice for third party. The plant is made operational only if the Punjab Agro receives advance orders for juice,he added.
It may be noted that two such juice units (Hoshiarpur and Abohar) were established at a cost of Rs 84 crore in 2007 and were inaugurated by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. Even the Abohar plant was made operational about four days ago.