Theni district, one of the major banana producing centres in the State, is transforming into one of the major export hubs for bananas in the country, thanks to the production of high-quality bananas and rapidly growing global demand, especially in the Middle East and Asian countries. Having realised its potential, the Central and State governments are extending support to banana growers for production, infrastructure development, packing, processing and exports.
This annual crop does not require much labour and a large quantity of pesticides. It requires fertilizers only.
Farmers in the district produce Cavendish (G-9) variety of banana, most commercialised banana variety, which accounts for around 40% to 50% of global production. This variety is able to achieve high yield per acre and is less prone to damage from environmental influences. Progressive banana growers in Theni district improve productivity by adopting modern agriculture and post-harvest practices and implementing better irrigation systems. This annual crop does not require much labour and a large quantity of pesticides. It requires fertilizers only.
Three crops a year
Even as banana is an annual crop, farmers raise three crops in a year. They raise two short-term crops – onion, tomato, broad beans and other vegetables – as intercrop in the first six months in their banana farm. So, many farmers in Goodalur have shifted to banana from coconut. Some farmers raise banana as intercrop to coconut. Micro-irrigation and drip irrigation facilities encourage farmers to take up banana cultivation on a large scale.
Export potential for Theni banana was proved in 2015 itself. Spotless bright yellow colour and uniform size are vital for export. Farmers have achieved it through best agriculture and post-harvest practices. Philippines banana is considered as the best quality at the global level as its size is 14 inches. Theni farmers have managed to produce 12 to 13 inch-long bananas. Moreover, Theni banana has a shelf life of 42 days. Its glucose content is 21%, against 14.5% of Cavendish variety grown in Ecuador. The diameter of each banana measures 44 to 48 in Banana Caliper, against the international standard of 42 to 47. These are major advantages of Theni banana for exports. With these advantages, a group of farmers in Chinnamanur have started exporting Cavendish banana to Gulf countries and Turkey. Initially, they had exported 20-tonne capacity/ per month. G-9 banana is ideal for making jam, juice, wine, brandy, salad and ice and cream. It perfectly meets the entire needs of the international market.
Growing global demand
Now, the opportunity for banana exports is very bright as the demand is growing every year. Moreover, Corona pandemic has changed food habits and lifestyle of people across the world as people pay more attention to healthy foods that improve immunity. Demand for banana has shot up owing to change in mindset.
The Food and Agriculture Organization expects world production of bananas to grow at 1.5% per annum to reach 132.6 million tonnes in 2029. Asia is expected to remain the leading global producing region at volume share of 51.8%, with India projected to reach 35.5 million tonnes.
Caribbean countries are expected to produce 34.8 million tonnes, owing to rising demand from key importing markets such as the European Union, USA and Russia. Ecuador, the main banana supplier to Russia, is set to expand its share in global exports by one percentage point over the outlook period, to 35 per cent in 2029.
Exports from the Philippines are also expected to grow by burgeoning import demand from China and Japan. The Philippines is also set to expand its share in global banana exports from existing 15.6% to 18.6% in 2029. But the production of bananas in the Philippines has declined to 2.23 million tonnes in the second quarter of 2020 owing to bacterial wilt disease and Mosaic disease. The slump in production would impact supply to Japan.
India is also the largest cultivator of banana in the world. Tamil Nadu stands first in banana production in the country. Maharashtra and Gujarat follow Tamil Nadu. India exported 1. 01 lakh tonnes in 2017-18, 1.34 lakh tonnes in 2018-19 and 1.95 lakh tonnes in 2019-20, according to Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). India has a bright chance to fill the supply gap.
District Export Plan
The Central Government in the current budget announced that each district would be developed as an export hub and advised to frame a District Export Plan to chalk out a strategy to enhance logistics and infrastructure at the district level.
With record production of 120 tonnes of banana last year, Theni has drawn the attention of the policymakers. Now, Theni is declared a banana zone. APEDA has started funding liberally for infrastructure development. An airtight packing-cum-processing centre is being built in the district. The new processing centre houses a massive packing hall, processing unit, cold storage facility, ripening chamber and vacuum packing facility. It has the capacity to process 50 tonnes of banana a day. Now, Cavendish variety of banana is gaining economic importance. Theni is gearing up to tap its export potential to meet global demand.