Sharath S. Srivatsa
BANGALORE: Pomegranate exports from Karnataka are all set to plummet this season. The bacterial blight that has been a bane for pomegranate farmers for the last two years, has affected the crop severely this year, bringing down the exports, as the yield itself has suffered by more than 50 per cent.
The export season for Karnataka farmers commences from January and goes on till July since pomegranate supply from Iraq and European Union comes down during the same period. Despite high demand for Koppal pomegranates in West Asia and the European Union, supply remains inadequate, and blight affected fruit cannot be exported. “Fifty per cent of the total area under pomegranate cultivation has been affected and farmers have reported yield reduction by 60 to 70 per cent while some have lost up to 80 per cent of the yield,” Horticulture Director G.K. Vasanth Kumar told The Hindu.
The demand for pomegranates from Karnataka, especially from Koppal region, is high in the export market, and the Koppal pomegranates have become a brand today, he said.
Officials and farmers alike acknowledge the fact that in their desperate measures to save the crop, several farmers have used shampoo and soap powder though they are not scientifically validated.
However, some farmers have used traditional and organic methods to control the blight menace and have succeeded.
“I have used cow urine, buttermilk and turmeric to control the blight effectively. Only around 10 per cent of my yield has been affected after I incorporated traditional method to save the crops,” Rudra Gouda, vice-president of Pomegranate Growers’ Association, said.
According to Horticulture Department officials, pomegranate cultivation in 8,000 hectares of land of the total 15,000 hectares in Koppal, Belgaum, Bijapur, Chitradurga, Tumkur, Bellary, Bagalkot and Gadag districts has been affected by the blight. Unable to cope up with the blight attack, some farmers have even uprooted the plants.
“We are feeling depressed since we missed out an opportunity to export the fruit when the rates are good. While we got around Rs. 70,000 a tonne last year, it is around Rs. 75,000 a tonne this year. Pomegranate had emerged as a very lucrative crop for us,” Mr. Gouda said.
A tonne of pomegranate in the domestic market will fetch the farmer between Rs. 35,000 and Rs. 40,000. While the yield of normal pomegranates per acre was around 10 tonnes, farmers reaped around 6 to 7 tonnes in the export variety.