Pomegranate farmers in Maharashtra are staring at difficult times as drought has cast a shadow on more than 50 per cent of the orchards. All India Pomegranate Growers Federation president Prabhakar Chandane said export prospects for the fruit were dim because of the drought.
This year, the federation was aiming exports of 10,000 tonnes of pomegranate to Europe and around 70,000 tonnes to other countries. Chandane said the window for exports to the European Union (EU) is between September 15 and March 15. “As the drought progresses there are chances that growers might not be able to produce enough for both the domestic as well as international market,” he said.
Other than the EU, the fruit is also exported to the UAE and other Middle East countries.
Of the 1.80 lakh hectares of area under pomegranate cultivation in India, Maharashtra alone has 1.30 lakh hectares with Pune, Solapur, Jalna, portions of Satara and Sangli districts leading in production of the fruit. More than 60 per cent of the pomegranate growing area of the state has been affected by drought. The federation has asked for immediate compensation of Rs 15,000 per acre along with an increase in subsidy for construction of water tanks, among others.
Meanwhile, Chandane confirmed that the export market for the Indian produce remains largely untapped over quality concerns. Also, recently the EU set the minimum residue level (MRL) of phosphonic acid for the fruit at 2 mg, which has acted as a major hurdle for exporters. “The MRL of grape is surprisingly 75 mg. We have asked the Agricultural and Processed Food Export Development Authority (APEDA) to take up the matter,” he said.
Growers are also keen to tap the Chinese market, which they said has immense potential. Bangladesh, which has been a traditional exporter, recently imposed an import duty of 60 per cent, which has halted exports to that country. “We have raised the matter with the government and waiting for an early resolution of the problem,” he said.