Banana crisis hits Kerala

By Sanu George, IANS,

Thiruvananthapuram : Bananas are known as the poor man’s fruit, and poor or not every Keralite’s daily fare includes banana as an inseparable part. But in the last two weeks, prices of the fruit have shot up so much that it has created a crisis of sorts. Even the well-off find it expensive.

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The small bananas in the state are available in three varieties — Palayamthodan, Njalipoovan and Poovan — and prices of all three have skyrocketed.

Palayamthodan is now selling at Rs.28 per kg when a month ago it was available for Rs.15 per kg.

Likewise, Njalipoovan now costs Rs.42 per kg, having risen by Rs.15, and Poovan sells for Rs.48 per kg, up from Rs.35 a kg.

The small banana is a sought after fruit since people in Kerala like to have it after a heavy lunch or dinner. It is also considered an effective laxative.

But what has hit people the most is the sharp increase in the price of Ethan banana. It is popular in every Kerala household as breakfast where it is eaten steamed and as a snack in roadside eateries, tea shops and hotels where it is served fried.

Ethan is selling for over Rs.50 per kg, a jump of Rs.15.

Only the price of the green Robusta banana has gone up marginally. It is available for Rs.28 per kg.

Soman Nair, a banana wholesaler for five decades here, said he had never seen such a steep price rise in the past.

“The reason being given is that the wind that came with the monsoon rain had badly hit banana farmers in Tamil Nadu. Close to 70 percent of the bananas sold in Kerala come from there,” he said.

Also, the prices of bananas usually go up ahead of the Onam season(from the last week of August) since the fruit is used to make payasam, sweets and banana chips.

Incidentally, the Kerala government figures show that banana is the only crop to have made a considerable gain in cultivation area in the state. It grew from 51,275 hectares in 2009-10 to 58,671 hectares in 2010-11.

“The banana has always been part of our everyday family menu as long as I can remember. I normally have one in the morning and one in the evening. For the snack, it comes as a fried dish. But ever since prices have been going up, we are buying a kilogram of bananas every other day,” said a retired teacher.

With the annual Onam festival season round the corner and sensing that people’s anger will go up if the prices of banana continue to remain high, the Kerala Horticultural Development Corporation has stepped in to ease the situation.

“We have started an aggressive banana procurement programme from cultivation centres in some districts,” said Lal V. Kalpakavadi, the corporation’s chairman.

“In Attapadi in Palakad district, we have been told that there is no one to procure the bananas from the farmers. We, along with the other state agencies, have taken this up on war footing,” the official said.

(Sanu George can be contacted at [email protected])