Jairam for cluster approach to boost banana export

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New Delhi, Oct 29 (UNI) Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh has advocated cluster approach to increase productivity and export of banana.

Unlike global trade, which is controlled by big agri-businesses, India's participation will be driven by small and medium farmers, he said during a visit to the National Centre for Banana Research (NCBR) in Thiruchirapalli last week.

Over five lakh small and medium farmers are involved in banana cultivation and about one-third of India's fruit production is accounted for by banana alone, he added.

But the Minister said considering the nature of competition, a cluster approach will have to be adopted for export promotion. He said Jalgaon in Maharashtra and Trichy in Tamil Nadu are among the most productive clusters.

Mr Jairam Ramesh said banana production in India has doubled in the last 20 years and the challenge will be to double it in the next ten years with emphasis on the low-productivity states like Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh.

He also underlined the need for capacity building in banana procession for value addition. Presently just about 3-4 per cent of banana production is processed.

India is the world's largest producer of bananas, accounting for about 23 per cent of the global output. This is almost three times the share of the next country, Brazil. Maharashtra accounts for 25 per cent of India's banana production, followed by Tamil Nadu (20 per cent), Gujarat (15 per cent), Karnataka (10 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (10 per cent).

India's productivity is also the highest in the world, barring Costa Rica which has a considerably lower area under cultivation, he added.

Agriculture Produce Export Development Authority (APEDA), in collaboration with the National Horticulture Mission, will take up the creation of storage, pack-house and cold storage infrastructure in key banana cultivation clusters with export potential. Similar facilities will be created in important importing countries, the Minister said.

APEDA has created such facilities for flowers in Rotterdam and is planning these in Dubai and Tokyo soon. Ministry of Commerce and Agriculture will work closely to develop the export potential of banana and banana-based products in order to increase incomes of the farmers, Mr Ramesh said.

The NCBR has been allocated Rs 31 crore in the 11th Plan, which is almost double the 10th Plan outlay. It has taken up development of genetically modified (GM) banana to increase the disease resistance of important indigenous varieties. Genes from amaranthus and radish are being experimented to improve resistance of banana varieties to leaf spot disease.

UNI

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