National Banana Festival at Madurai
A three-day national festival was organized during July 21-23 at Agricultural College and Research Institute, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Madurai by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in collaboration with Central Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture – Tamil Nadu State Government, TNAU, ICAR-NRCB, NHB, NABARD and other industry partners. The focus of the event was to enhance the export of banana from India and leapfrogging to become a global leader in banana trade. The annual festival was in its fourth edition; the first three were held at Chennai, Coimbatore and Trichy, respectively. The exhibition displayed the latest cold storage technology and high yield seeds. Field visits attracted the participation of five state ministers and hundreds of farmers from 14 Indian states. The inauguration of an export packaging unit and a ripening and cold storage unit were among the highlights of the Conference. A book – Guide to Banana Cultivation – was released for the guidance of farmers. The day-long sessions focused on Benchmarking Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), Risk Mitigation in Banana Cultivation, and Technology Adoption for Post-
Harvest Excellence in Banana, with more than 800 banana stakeholders participating. The Expo had 100 exhibitors and 15,000 visitors. C. Sreenivasan, Minister for Forests, Tamil Nadu; K. A. Sengottaiyan, Minister for School Education, Sports and Youth Welfare; Sellur K. Raju, Minister for Cooperation; R. Doraikkannu, Minister for Agriculture; and R. B. Udhayakumar, Minister for Revenue inaugurated the festival on July 21. Shakil P. Ahammed, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, Government of India; Gagandeep Singh Bedi, Agriculture Production Commissioner and PS, Tamil Nadu; K. Veera Raghava Rao, Collector; Prof. K. Ramasamy, Vice Chancellor, TNAU; Dr. S. Uma, Director, ICAR-NRCB, Trichy; S. Nagoor Ali Jinnah, CGM, NABARD; P. Ravichandran, Chairman, Tamil Nadu State Council, CII and other dignitaries and technocrats attended the event. Inaugurating the function, R. Doraikkannu pointed out how the State had been a front-runner in banana cultivation by
contributing 24% of the country’s 2.91 crore metric ton production. He added that while the average productivity across the country was 37 metric ton per hectare, certain pockets in Theni district in Tamil Nadu were recording a productivity of as high as 100 metric ton. Pointing out that India, however, lagged behind manycountries in terms of banana export, he expressed the hope that the festival would equip the farmers to export more.Shakil P. Ahammed, in his speech, stressed the importance of value addition post-harvesting and how countries like Brazil were using it effectively. For instance, if a farmer gets ?30 per kilogram of banana at the farm gate level, he can make around
?200 per kilogram if he converts it into banana powder and ?250 to ?300 if he sells it as banana chips. Stating that India stood behind countries like Indonesia and Costa Rica in terms of productivity, he said that the festival, by bringing together farmers, research institutions and the government, would help in improving the situation. Gagandeep Singh Bedi highlighted the schemes implemented by the State to boost banana cultivation, which include ?1 crore allocation for encouraging cultivation of hill banana and other traditional varieties, and a subsidy of ?35,500 per hectare for tissue culture banana cultivation. “Importantly, the State government has recently announced ?398 crore for supply chain management, which will involve setting up of cold storage and related infrastructure to help the farmers,” he said. At the event, TNAU inaugurated a model multi-purpose cold storage and ripening chamber for 8 to 14°C fruits and vegetables where the technology has been provided by Danfoss and Blue Star. Prof. Dr. K Ramasamy, who also serves as Vice Chancellor, Agricultural College and Research Institute, Coimbatore, said, “With a world-class multi-purpose cold storage and ripening chamber in place, our aim is to enhance awareness of cold chain techniques with farmers, students and other interested stakeholders, which will directly help increase the farmers’ incomes and reduce post-harvest losses.” “Moreover, with industry experts such as Danfoss and Blue Star on board, we are confident that the rate of knowledge transfer between the industry and academia will increase over time, which will enable us to nurture industry-ready professionals for the sector,” he added. “India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world today. With the increasing rate of urbanisation and the perpetually growing population, it is fundamental to have an efficient cold chain infrastructure that further enhances the farm-to-fork process,” said Ravichandran Purushothaman, MD, Danfoss India. “The Banana Festival is an initiative that CII started about four years ago with the intention of educating farmers on how they can reduce post-harvest losses and thereby improve their incomes,” he added. “When we started this journey, less than five per cent of the bananas were being ripened scientifically. Today, we understand it is at 25 per cent, which will need further research, but this is just the beginning,” Purushothaman said. “In the next five years, we should aim to make Tamil Nadu the global leader in bananas. The Indian horticulture sector needs investments in the cold chain space. We have a huge opportunity, with India being the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world and the largest producer of milk,” he added.