Kerala’s pineapple farmers seek government support to raise bargaining power

‘It will enable farmers to negotiate remunerative prices with commission agents’

The community of over 5,000 pineapple farmers in the State has demanded that the government raise the support price of the fruit to enable them to negotiate remunerative prices with commission agents, who ultimately end up selling the fruit in upcountry cities.

Pineapple Farmers Association president James George said though the government had agreed to look into the issue of support price, there had been no action.

The support price is ₹15 a kg, while farmers claim that the production cost ranged between ₹23 and ₹25 a kg. The government support price is decided on the basis of the production cost plus 20% addition on it. The low support price has deprived farmers of their bargaining power, said Mr. George.

Baby John, a veteran pineapple farmer, called for the reintroduction of the system wherein farmers bill commission agents on the basis of the actual cost of the fruit when a consignment is shipped to retail markets in upcountry cities. There is an unwritten agreement between local commission agents and fruit farmers on the returns to be realised from the sale of the consignment.

Under the current system, farmers have no control over transactions. Consignments are shipped to retailers’ agents in cities like Delhi. The agents take delivery, distribute the fruits, and take 8% to 10% commission from the total sales turnover. The farmer finally gets what the commission agent offers after the agent takes the cut irrespective of the price at which the fruit is sold.

Mr. George said the system was exploitative in nature, and that an improved marketing system could help farmers realise better prices. Realising better prices is the only way to encourage and sustain pineapple cultivation, now spread over around 18,000 hectares in the State. Pineapple farming is worth around ₹1,500 crore a year and is a huge support to the State’s economy even as rubber and other plantations have come under tremendous pressure during the pandemic and due to climate change, said Mr. John.

Meanwhile, the price of ripe pineapple has brought some cheer to farmers. It hovered around ₹23 a kg, while the best quality raw fruit, which is usually shipped to major cities in the country, sold at ₹15 a kg in the wholesale market at Vazhakulam near Muvattupuzha on Saturday.

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