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Huge losses: Area under kinnow in Punjab dips 16% on lower prices for growers

Of 50,000-odd hectare that is on average under kinnow cultivation, 30,000 hectare is in the Abohar-Fazilka belt, 5,500 hectare in Hoshiarpur, 5,000 hectares in Bathinda and the rest scattered in other districts.

punjab Updated: Jan 27, 2018 13:00 IST
Jatinder Mahal
Jatinder Mahal
Hindustan Times, Jalandhar
Huge losses,kinnow,Punjab farmers
Workers plucking kinnows in an orchard in Hoshiarpur. (HT Photo)

With kinnow yielding huge losses for farmers over the past five years, there has been a 16% decline in the cultivation area of the crop to 43,000 hectare for this season over last year’s 51,000 hectare. Farmers have been uprooting the crop to cut their losses. The crop’s share in the area under fruit cultivation has also dropped.

The losses have resulted due to surplus production, lack of proper markets and the state government’s inability to export the fruit. Another major reason has been the static price realisation for the farmer at between Rs 10 and Rs 12 per kg, when the input cost has almost doubled over the past 10 years to Rs 25,000-30,000 per acre, farmers claim.

“In the absence of a dedicated market to sell the fruit and the government’s failure to provide facilities to export, many farmers have decided not to grow kinnows. Most farmers had faced severe losses in the past few years due to surplus production,” said Surinder Kumar, owner of Bala Ji fruits in Abohar. He exports kinnow to Bangladesh, Dubai and Russia.

Exports have stagnated and domestic prices have been less than remunerative for the past few years.

Reason for the glut

In oranges, there are two harvesting seasons for an early and late crop between November and March. The kinnow crop, by contrast, is harvested during December-January, which is also the time when oranges hit the market. It naturally results in a citrus glut, translating into poor realisations for farmers.

This year, the total fruit cultivation area has also declined to 78,000 hectare, with kinnow grown on 55% of this. In the 2016-17 season, total area under fruit cultivation was 82,000 hectare with kinnow on 51,000 hectare (62%). “Yes, this year the acreage under kinnows has come down. A survey is on. I do not have the exact number, but the area under cultivation may come down to 45,000 hectare this time,” assistant director, horticulture, Karnail Singh told HT over phone.

Of 50,000-odd hectare that is on average under kinnow cultivation, 30,000 hectare is in the Abohar-Fazilka belt, 5,500 hectare in Hoshiarpur, 5,000 hectares in Bathinda and the rest scattered in other districts.

Acreage doubled from 2005 to 2010

Much of this increase — from 19,000 to 39,000 hectare — took place between 2004-05 and 2009-10, largely on the back of the state’s push for crop diversification (away from paddy and wheat) and its setting up kinnow processing plants at Hoshiarpur and Abohar in 2007, along with citrus estates providing farm implements, grading, waxing and other facilities under a single roof.

Now, however, exports have stagnated and domestic prices have been less than remunerative for the past few years. A faint silver lining to emerge out of the drop in area under this year has been the slightly better price for farmers.

“With this year’s lower production, the growers are getting a good price of between Rs 15 and Rs 20 in the local market against Rs 10 and Rs 12 in previous years,” said assistant director, horticulture, at Citrus Estate, Avtar Singh.

He added the state government’s decision to stop water supply in canals during June and July (to control paddy acreage) was also a factor that had led to farmers quitting kinnow growing. Deputy director, horticulture, Gulab Singh Gill added that the actual figures will be known after the survey is completed.

First Published: Jan 27, 2018 12:59 IST