PRODUCTION and supply of banana are expected to return to normal next month when the orchards devastated by the unprecedented frost start fruiting again.
Horticulturist Mahmood Nawaz revealed that the farmers in lower Sindh, the main banana producing area, had done a wonderful job to give a new lease of life to banana trees in the vast area affected by frost in Feb-March and made them fruit-bearing again.
He regretted that the agriculture department did not provide any financial and technical help to the growers. Despite the fact that the growers had no experience of countering the severe frost attack on the plantations the first time in 50 years, they achieved the goal by sheer hard work.
“It is a miracle to enliven the frost-bitten trees making them fruit-bearing again,” Nawaz observed.
Nawaz, who is also Secretary General of Sindh Abadgar Board, said large scale import of fruits and vegetable from India harms government revenue as well as growers’ profitability while there is seldom any export of the stuff to India.
He urged the government to help growers in quality control and packaging so that they can export their fruits and vegetable to India and Afghanistan which is a good market.
He said the Indian government helps their farmers to export their surplus crops of fruits and vegetable to Pakistan. India frequently exports bananas, mangoes, onion, tomatoes and potatoes to Pakistan but not a single fruit or vegetable is exported from Pakistan to India.
Nawaz maintained that that the Sindh Abadgar Board was not opposed to trade with India but it should be regulated. The government should provide facilities to the growers to export their surplus to India, he added.
Meanwhile, a leading banana grower and trader Maulvi Nazeer of Degree near Mirpurkhas, has different views. He said banana production and supplies would remain short by 40 per cent after the new crop arrives in the market in May next year.
Banana became a rare commodity in Ramazan and its prices went as high as Rs150 per dozen in Karachi and Rs250-300 in Islamabad and other up country cities.
He opined that banana prices would not come down next year as well and its rates would remain at Rs1200 per maund (40 kg) compared to the normal rates of Rs600-800 per maund.
The rate of raw bananas arriving in the market prevails at Rs2000-2,300 per maund which might come down to Rs1,200 per maund at the maturity of the crop in May next.
Traders imported huge quantities of bananas from India during the last season to meet the shortage in the domestic market.
However presently they are reluctant to import the fruit because of high prices due to hundred per cent difference in currency rates of the two countries.
Mr Nazeer observed that banana was gradually becoming an attractive cash crop. Its high rates during last two years had motivated many growers to plant bananas. Since the plantation needs high investment – Rs20,000 per acre - small growers were unable to grow the fruit.
Babu Mohammad Hasan, an MPA of Tando Ghulam Ali, has developed a model banana farm on 100 acres in the area to introduce modern techniques in cultivation which focus on selecting of saplings instead of repeated cultivation of a plant. The model farm hopes to achieve 750 maunds per acre yield against a normal yield of 500 maunds.