“The strain between the two countries, coupled with drought-like conditions in Maharashtra, had hit exports to Pakistan. However, the export to Pakistan began again last week, through Jammu and Kashmir. There is an increasing demand for Indian bananas from Pakistan,” said Unmesh Chaudhari, a trader from Raver.
According to Chaudhari, as many as 40-50 trucks, packed with the fruit, ply to Pakistan every day. He claimed that the demand for bananas from Jalgaon remained high across the border.
India is the world’s leading producer of bananas, accounting for nearly 28 per cent of the total production of the fruit. Cultivated over an area of almost 8 lakh hectares, nearly 2.97 crore metric tonnes of bananas are produced in the country.
Maharashtra, with a cultivation area of 82,000 hectares and an output of 0.43 crore metric tonnes, is the country’s second largest producer of the fruit, after Tamil Nadu. It is one of the few states where bananas are harvested throughout the year.
In spite of such a high production, India’s banana exports rake in a measly Rs 357 crore, with the United Arab Emirates alone buying bananas worth Rs 117 crore.
Ecuador, whose output is one fourth that of India, raked in exports worth $2.5 billion this year.
Though Pakistan has traditionally been an importer of Indian bananas, the tension between the two countries in the last two years had severely affected trade. From banana exports worth Rs 14.73 crore in 2014-15, the trade fell to a measly Rs 13 lakh in 2015-16.
“The tension between the two countries had played havoc with the banana trade last year. As the bulk of transfers took place through Jammu and Kashmir, the unrest in the state this year had affected trade as well. However, with the situation returning to normal, things are looking up and there is more demand,” said Chaudhari.
Traders said they expect over 200 trucks of bananas to pass into Pakistan each week. While bananas for the local market are sold at Rs 9.5 per kg, those marked for exports fetch a higher price, Rs 12 per kg.
“If the situation remains peaceful, we can send the produce till May. We hope that we will make the same amount of money this year as we used to before things went sour between the two countries,” said a trader, who did not wish to be named.