India: Gulf markets go bananas for Grand Nain from Tamil Nadu
According to the Tamil Nadu Banana Growers' Federation (TNBGF), producers from the Theni district are cashing in on the success of the Grand Nain fruit with solid sales volumes in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.
The Grand Nain is part of the popular Cavendish family of bananas.
"Tamil farmers have been cultivating the Grand Nain because they see the benefits. Sales in the Middle Eastern markets have been going very well over the last months and we have seen exports increasing here this year," a spokesman tells www.freshfruitportal.com.
"Even though bananas are produced in these countries, we have seen a good market for Indian exports and we hope this will continue as it is a very good outlet for Tamil Nadu farmers to get high volumes and decent prices."
At India's National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB), director Dr. M.M. Mustaffa says the expansion of Grand Nain production secures high yields of long and evenly colored bananas that are attractive for importers and keep the sector profitable.
In addition, the high yielding bunches can be harvested within 12 months from the time of planting tissue culture plants, giving producers a prompt turnaround.
"The G9 is popular in Tamil Nadu because it is high yielding. For example, the yield from the Grand Nain field is harvesting about 150 [metric] tons (MT) per hectare from around 3,000 plants and that is why the farmers are going for this particular variety, even though there are more than 20 local varieties of bananas out there," Mustaffa tells www.freshfruitportal.com.
"The average bunch rate per plant is high so the farmers are getting more money per hectare of banana plantation. Some other varieties will typically produce around 80 to 90 tons per hectare."
Since the early nineties, NRCB has been conducting extensive research into developing new commercial strains, preserving traditional varieties, promoting eco-friendly pesticide use and enhancing production methods.
Although the market is dominated by the popular G9, considered a success story by many in the sector, one consequence has been the slow decline of other traditional varieties which have become less appealing to some international markets, therefore prompting a slump in demand.
However, NRCB is carrying out research and development into new strains and disease-resistance as well as continuing to improve production of traditional varieties.
Export markets for G9
Gulf markets are considered the most appealing for exporters and while attempts have been made to supply Europe and the South East (such as China), long transportation times and high costs deter Tamil Nadu growers.
"Europe is very far and is not a sure market so they are not exported to Europe because it takes more than one month in transportation time. Instead they are mostly exported to the Gulf markets which have been very successful.
"There are specific areas in Tamil Nadu where they are exclusively growing the Grand Nain banana for the commercial export market."
In particular the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabian markets absorbed approximately 63,000 metric tons (MT) of Grand Nain last year.
As Grand Nain becomes more profitable, other non-traditional banana growing states in India are diversifying crops and opting to grow G9.
Photo: LConstanti - Emaar Properties, via Wikimedia Commons