Banana farming soon going to be a reality in Kashmir

  • BIVEK MATHUR
  • Publish Date: Aug 12 2018 9:56PM
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  • Updated Date: Aug 12 2018 9:56PM
Banana farming soon going to be a reality in Kashmir

Imagine Kashmir for a moment. What comes to your mind other than scenic hills, green meadows, snow clad mountains and beautiful waterfalls? Certainly, every person who has visited Kashmir or has ever imagined to visit the paradise would also mention about the local fruits like apple, apricot, peach, pear, cherry, almond, wild berry, walnut and some other dry fruits.

Banana, mango, orange are some rare-to-imagine fruits to be grown in Kashmir Valley due to cold climate of the region. But the scientists of CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR-IIIM) are thinking otherwise as they’ve prepared a full blueprint to turn the option of banana farming in Kashmir into a reality. 

Yes, you read it right - banana farming in Kashmir Valley.

According to Dr Rahul, scientist at CSIR-IIIM Jammu - who along with other scientists with the use of biotechnological research and advancements has already set up the State’s first ever banana farm in Jammu’s Chattha area - claimed that three locations - Verinag village of Anantnag district, Bonera village of Pulwama and Yarikha village of Kulgam district - have been identified as prospective destinations for banana farming in Valley.

“But before starting commercial farming, we will conduct the trial for this crop from our Sanat Nagar (Srinagar) research lab on around one acre of land,” said Dr Rahul.

Dr Rahul said, “Since Kashmir remains covered with snow in winter, we will initially grow the saplings of banana through tissue culture technique in high tech poly houses at our research laboratory in Srinagar and gradually after conducting the trials we will start the commercial cropping from Anantnag, Pulwama and Kulgam.”

About progress on the project as of now, Dr Rahul said, “At this time, we’re busy in creating facilities in our Sanat Nagar based research lab and the project is in DPR stage. Once we create the facilities, we will apply for the approval of Director IIIM.”

It takes a banana tree 12-13 months to bear the fruit. In the 10th month, the process of flowering starts and in the 12-13th month, a banana tree bears fruit.

In Jammu’s Chattha village, the experiment of CSIR-IIIM has already turned out to be a huge success as all the 2000 saplings of high quality tissue culture variety of banana, Bhim Grand Naine (G-9), brought from Agro Division of Cadila Pharmaceutical Limited, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, and grown on around 2 acres of land bore fruit with average 20-30 kilogram fruit production from every plant.

And now, the private farmers of other districts of Jammu including Kathua, Samba and Udhampur in particular and the horticulture department officers have also started approaching the CSIR-IIIM Chattha scientists with the plea of teaching them the technique and art of banana farming.

“Yes, one of the horticulture officers of the region and many private farmers have sent letters to our center in Jammu seeking our expertise on banana farming,” Director IIIM Jammu, Dr Ram A Vishwakarma said.

He said, “Our project at Chattha turned out to be huge success. There is scope of banana farming in other districts of Jammu as well. But harvesting better crop largely depends on how much efforts you put in while taking care of the crop.”

According to Dr Rahul, insects don’t eat the Bhim Grand Naine (G-9) variety of banana and every plant bears fruit, thus bringing maximum benefit to the farmers.

“Not all the traditional plants of banana bear the fruit, but all the plants of Bhim Grand Naine (G-9) variety of banana bear fruit. This will help the farmer facilitate the sale of their produce every year at a particular Mandi,” Dr Rahul said.

The first experiment of growing banana, around 2000 saplings of the fruit with the narrow spacing of 2x2 m, was done in Jammu and Kashmir over two acres of land at IIIM field experimental farm Chattha back in 2016. The fruit setting commenced in July-August 2017 while the maturity and harvesting attained in 13 months. The plants grow to a height of 6.5 to 7.5 feet and gave a yield of 20-30 kg per plant and 20-25 tonnes per acre.

On the basis of market demand then, the scientists at the Chattha farm pegged the net return at Rs 2.5 lakh by cultivation of one acre of land.

Dr Rahul believes that banana farming can be an alternative business for the farmers of Jammu and Kashmir as it involves very less input but gives lucrative profit.

Most edible species of banana are widely cultivated in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Assam, AP and Bihar.

Jammu and Kashmir is net exporter of most of the fruits to other states and abroad, but every year banana worth Rs 200 crore is imported to Jammu and Kashmir.

“If banana farming would start on a serious note in both the regions of the state, several crores of rupees will add to the kitty of Jammu and Kashmir farmers,” Dr Rahul said.   

According to a news report published in February 2018 in Food and Beverages News, the country’s first newspaper that provides a comprehensive view of the food and beverage industry, although India accounts for just 15.5 percent in area, its contribution to the world’s banana production is 25.58 percent.

“Bananas are cultivated in over 130 countries across the world. According to 2013 statistics by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), five million hectare yield 103.63 million tonne of bananas,” the newspaper report said quoting union minister for agriculture and farmers’ welfare, Radha Mohan Singh.

“India is the largest producer of bananas in the world, with 29.7 million tonne (MT) from an area of 0.88 million hectare, with a productivity of 37MT/ha,” the report said.

“It is predicted that with the ever-increasing demand, 60MT of banana will be needed to meet the domestic demand in 2050,” the minister was quoted by the newspaper report.

“So far, 11,809 pack houses and 34.92 lakh MT of cold storage capacity have been created in the last three-and-a-half years in India. Owing to the growing awareness of bananas for their nutrition value, high economic returns and export potential, the area under banana cultivation has increased,” the report reads.