A bumper pomegranate crop, to the tune of around 12-13 lakh tonne, is expected this November season on the back of increased acreage that has come under pomegranate cultivation in Maharashtra and other states. Despite this, export market for the fruit has not picked up because of lack of demand and issues with regard to fruit size and quality, says Prabhakar Chandane, chairman, Maharashtra Pomegranate Growers Research Association (MPGRA). Normally, pomegranate production in the country comes up to 8 lakh tonne.
Around 50,000 additional hectares has come under cultivation in Maharashtra that usually has 85,000 hectares for the same. Buoyed by good prices in the last few years, farmers in the state have been shifting to this fruit from grape, he said. In Gujarat, an additional 15,000 hectares has come under cultivation while Madhya Pradesh has increased acreage by 10,000 hectares. Maharashtra contributes 90% of the country's pomegranate production.
Farmers, however, are now concerned about the 50% drop in prices owing to a sudden influx of the commodity into markets, Chandane said. Pomegranates are retailing at R50-60 per kg in several markets in Maharashtra against prices of R100-150 per kg last year. The production has increased but not quality and this has led to price fall, he added. Some 240 tonne of pomegranate has entered markets in Sangola and 300 tonne in Solapur.
Indian pomegranates are being exported only to Dubai with four-five containers being processed on a daily basis. Although Russia emerged as a new market last year, traders are not keen to send products there owing to payment issues in the previous year, Chandane said. UK, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, Egypt, Turkey, Bahrain and Kuwait are other important markets for the fruit.
Around 40,000 tonne of pomegranate was exported by farmers in 2013-14. Exports normally pick up during the November season, says Ravindra Navlakha, a pomegranate farmer and president of the association.
The delay in monsoons this year affected the crop to some extent in Solapur region. This year, in Indapur region near Pune, the crop was affected by oily spot disease causing a loss of R100 crore to farmers.