HELPED by weather, the standing banana crop in Sindh looks healthy this season, and if it escapes the two-year frostbite cycle, growers expect a bumper crop.
While a drop in mercury below 4°C is harmful for the crop, a moderately cold season is considered ideal. Drop in temperature could not be ruled out even in February.
Imdad Nizamani, a banana grower, anticipates 75pc more production on his farm as compared to last season if there is no virus attack or frostbite. He expects 520 maunds of banana from an acre this season against last year’s 260 maunds.
An off-season banana crop is now being sold by the growers to get high prices due to limited supplies. The new crop’s arrival would be in full swing from August-September on-wards.
Almost 95pc of the country’s banana is grown in Sindh. “Our crop reaches Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and even traders from Kabul make deals directly at farms in Sindh,” said Mir Zafarullah Talpur, who grows banana on 16-acres.
The 2015 floods caused damage to orchards in riverine area of the Indus River where banana was planted on a large scale. This has caused shortage of banana and currently the farmers are striking deals with traders at Rs1,200 to Rs1,400 per 40kg.
But with full market supplies the rate is expected to eventually drop in the range of Rs500-Rs600 per 40kg, say traders.
Farmers put the banana’s cost of production per acre between Rs100,000 to Rs150,000 with required doses of fertiliser, irrigation water cycles and pest management.
Almost 95pc of the country’s banana is grown in Sindh. Of the total output of 118,756 tonnes in 2013-14, Sindh’s share was 100,787 tonnes. Punjab produced 2,082 tonnes.
Originally, the coastal district of Thatta in lower Sindh was known for banana cultivation, but farmers say bunchy top disease in late 1980s wiped out crop from there. It is now largely grown in Tando Allahyar, Matiari, Badin, Nawabshah and Hyderabad with required taste and colour.
Growers are worried about import of banana from India through Kashmir’s route under barter/local trade deals. Earlier, farmers had raised hue and cry against banana’s trade via Wagah border which was closed, but now it finds its way from Kashmir.
Mahmood Nawaz Shah, a grower, says banana is a high value crop that remains in high demand in Central Asian countries and Afghanistan. And in the absence of quarantine regulations the import of panama-virus-hit Indian banana continues without restrictions. That is a serious issue,.
This disease is almost non-existent in Pakistan but according to banana producer Karamullah Saand its strain was found in a laboratory test in Thatta.This could be dangerous if the disease afflicts the crop here and requires stricter quarantine check.