Guwahati | Meghalaya's pineapples have found its way to the international markets with growers reaping a rich harvest, an official said.
Grown mostly in Ri Bhoi and East Garo Hills districts by local communities in a traditional manner, these crops are mostly naturally organic and are being recognised for their unique quality and taste not only in India but also abroad, Meghalaya Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Department's Commissioner and Secretary Vijay Kumar D said.
''It is a matter of great pride for the state that pineapples from Meghalaya are the centrepiece of the elaborate display celebrating the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, at the Al-Wahda mall in Abu Dhabi'', he said.
These pineapples are being marketed through Lulu Group in the markets of the Gulf countries, he added.
''The recent market linkages to the Middle East and domestic processors are a testament to the immense potential of our state's pineapples in the international and national markets", Kumar said.
The surge in price realization and the establishment of market connections have not only elevated the farmers' livelihoods but have also showcased the superior quality of Meghalaya's pineapples with their exceptional sweetness and low sourness, The Meghalaya government has recognized the challenges faced by farmers in the past and have focussed on empowering them with community-centric solutions.
''The formation of farmer cooperatives and producer organizations has proven instrumental in reducing reliance on middlemen and traders, enabling our farmers to receive fair value for their produce'', he said.
The forthcoming Pineapple festival in Delhi is yet another significant step towards promoting the product and strengthening their presence in the national market.
"The formation of farmer cooperatives and producer organizations has led to fair value for our produce and we no longer have to rely on middlemen who exploited us in the past. The recent linkages to domestic and international markets have been a game-changer", president of Napak Apal Integrated Village Cooperative Societies (IVCS) at Songsak Block in East Garo Hills Selwindro Sangma said.
President of Silchang Dirimbri Palwang Ading IVCS of Rongjeng Block Manman S Momin said that he had never imagined that his pineapples would reach international markets and it is immensely fulfilling to see the hard work of the farmers being recognized and appreciated globally.
The Jamge IVCS in East Garo Hills district with over 250 farming households from four villages produce almost 100 tonnes of pineapples throughout the pineapple growing seasons and is an example of how successful collectivisation can result in doubling farmer's incomes, Kumar said.
The farmers previously received only Rs 10 per pineapple irrespective of the weight of the fruit but with collectivisation and market linkage with international buyers they received Rs 16 per kg which is equivalent to Rs 21 per fruit, with the average fruit size exported being 1.3 kg.
Kumar said that efforts are also being directed towards increasing the processing capacity and infrastructure in the state through local farmer collectives to enhance the shelf-life of the fruit and reach wider markets.
The state's Agriculture and Farmers welfare department has also facilitated a collaboration between the Ri Bhoi district based Umdihar IVCS and Karnataka based IQF Private Food Limited to set up a mobile processing unit for quick freezing of pineapples and over the first three weeks of its operation, the unit has processed over 52 MT of pineapples, he said.
The department has also facilitated a supply chain arrangement closer home with Reliance recently, whereby pineapples are being regularly supplied to the company's retail stores across Assam.
This has been undertaken by Tomonpo Anglong Organic Producer Company Ltd, Umwang Pyllun IVCS Ltd and Jirang Organic Agro Producer Company Ltd. from Ri Bhoi district.
The farmer collectives are being trained by the department to aggregate, grade, sort and package pineapples for regular shipment and so far over 5.2 MT of pineapples from these farmer collectives have been supplied in three weeks to Reliance stores across Assam, Kumar added.