Hit by oversupply of oranges from Maharashtra, growers of kinnow in Punjab have seen an almost 50% drop in returns this season.
Disappointed growers now want the Punjab government to come forward to rescue them from this "loss making" venture by providing subsidy on transportation of kinnow to other states.
Growers in Punjab fetched Rs 6-7 per kg for their crop in December as against Rs 12-13 per kg they received last season.
"We are unable to compete with oranges grown in Maharashtra which have almost ousted our kinnows from potential markets such as Tamil Nadu, Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh," said Ajit Nyol, who grew Kinnow over 40 acres of land.
"Supply of kinnow to southern states costs us about Rs 18-19 per kg which involves the cost of waxing, packing, grading and transportation. On the other hand, oranges are available at Rs 12-13 per kg," he said.
As a result of the reduced demand, the overall price of kinnow remained low this year. However, middlemen and retailers are selling kinnow at last year's rate of Rs 25-30 per kg, growers alleged.
Because of lower demand, some of contractors who buy crop from farmers ahead of season refused to pay the agreed price, they said.
Government support needed
Notably, prices of kinnow fell at a time when the Punjab government is aggressively promoting crop diversification in the state to encourage farmers to come out of wheat-paddy rotation.
"We want the state government to at least provide sufficient incentive for the marketing of kinnow crop in order to provide remunerative prices to growers," said Nyol.
Growers also demanded the government to accelerate its efforts to process maximum amounts of the crop for making juices at the Ferozepur and Hoshiarpur plants, set up by state-owned Punjab Agro Juices Limited.
Meanwhile, experts pitched for proper promotion of kinnow crops across the country to tap and explore newer markets.
"There is a need to focus on promoting Kinnow at an extensive scale throughout the country so as to increase its demand," Punjab horticulture director Gurkanwal Singh said.
Kinnow is a hybrid of two varieties mandarin citrus fruits.
It was invented in US and its commercial cultivation began in 1935.
In Punjab, Kinnow harvesting starts in December and goes on till March.
Punjab is the largest producer of kinnow in the country with over 49,000 hectares of land under cultivation and an annual output of 10 lakh tonnes.
It is primarily grown in Abohar, Hoshiarpur, Mansa, Muktsar and Bathinda districts.