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Kinnow fetching a windfall for Abohar farmers over increased demand from South

Traders offering 18 a kg to farmers against just 12 last year; poor output of competing fruits like oranges and mosambi in other parts of the country behind the spurt in demand
By Vishal Joshi | Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON NOV 27, 2019 11:55 PM IST

Abohar Punjab’s ‘king fruit’ kinnow is bringing handsome return to farmers over last year, with traders in this subdivision of Fazilka district being offered up to 18 per kg. This is an increase of 50% over last year’s average price of 12 per kg.

The major reason for this price appreciation is poor output of competing fruits like oranges and mosambi in other parts of the country. The South is the biggest market for Punjab’s kinnow and it plays a vital role in deciding the pricing, growers say.

Subhash Bishnoi, who owns a 60-acre orchard at Khairpur village, said farmers were paid 10-12/kg for bulk orders in 2018-19. “Last season, kinnow production was exceptionally high. Due to high yield, rates crashed. This year, as a significant part of Maharashtra’s orange was hit due to rain, the crop’s October-November harvest is low. Consequently, kinnow demand has seen an increase,” he added.

Punjab leads in the cultivation of kinnow, a hybrid between King and Willow Leaf Mandarin. Abohar produces 60% of the state’s fruit with area under it pegged at around 33,000 hectare. Last season, Abohar had produced 7 lakh metric tonnes of kinnow.

Aman Sharma, a contractor harvesting orchards in Abohar, said prices were likely to stay firm this year. “It can even fetch better returns for farmers, who have a good crop. We have started supplying kinnow to Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Demand in North Indian states will start from December.”

Deputy director (horticulture) JS Bhatti said, “Climatic conditions of the Abohar area are highly conducive for kinnow. Owing to their distinct taste, kinnow has created a niche for itself in south Indian states. Significant quantity is also exported to Bangladesh and some individuals are trying to explore the market in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia,” he said, adding that there had been an increase of 1,600 hectare in area under kinnow production in Abohar, each year since 2016.

Bhatti added that Punjab Agricultural University (PAU’s) state-supported research had proved that kinnows had anti-oxidant properties that not only reduced chances of cancer, but also lowered the risk of contracting diseases that affect immunity, like HIV.

“Kinnow seeds contain a high level of limonin, a natural content with medicinal value. The fruit can be marketed while highlighting these facts in the market,” he adds.

A leading kinnow grower and chairperson of the Punjab State Farmers’ and Farm Workers’ Commission Ajay Vir Jakhar, however, claimed that PAU was not making research efforts in developing new varieties of the citrus fruit.

“My family elders had introduced kinnow farming in the country in the 1950s. Kinnow has contributed significantly to the economics of this semi-arid region and there is hardly any case of a farmer suicide due to debt. PAU must work to bring new varieties with improved qualities,” Jakhar added.

A state award-winning kinnow grower Arvind Setia said with the fruit having huge potential in domestic and international market, scientists should work to explore the scope of kinnow in the organised food processing sector.

“About 15 years ago, the industry had started using kinnow in juice and squash manufacturing. The project, however, failed as seeds cause bitterness in the juice. Over the past few decades, Pakistan has taken over the global market of this citrus fruit due to the highly organised packaging and marketing strategy. If we also get facilities like cool chains and packaging units in Abohar, the life of farmers and the economics of this crop will get a boost,” Setia added.

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