Thiruvananthapuram: Efforts rolled out by the Central and State governments have succeeded in adding 21,200 hectares to the total banana cultivable area in Kerala since 2013-14. As per 2013-14 figures, banana was being cultivated in 1,18,697 hectares, and the addition of 21,200 hectares more augurs well for the banana sector, said Radha Mohan Singh, Union Minister for Agriculture, today.
Speaking after inaugurating the five-day National Banana Festival 2018 at the Vellayani Temple Ground in Kalliyoor Grama Panchayat today, the Union Minister added that the 32 Special Agricultural Zones declared by the Kerala government would help increase the productivity of different crops native to those regions, which in turn would prove to be a major boost to the agri sector of the state.
The Thrissur District has been declared as a Special Agricultural Zone for Banana, he added. The National Banana Festival 2018 got off to a start at a gala function presided over by Kadakampally Surendran, Minister for Tourism, Devaswoms and Cooperation, Government of Kerala. Suresh Gopi MP, Organising Committee Chairman, National Banana Festival 2018, inaugurated the Exhibition being organised as part of the Festival. NBF 2018 is being organised by Centre for Innovation in Science and Social Action (CISSA) and the Kalliyoor Grama Panchayat.
Pointing out that the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIHD) scheme initiated by the Narendra Modi Government at the Centre has benefitted banana farmers a lot, Radha Mohan Singh said the Union Government is committed to provide the required assistance to farmers for all horticulture crops. "The Centre has been providing financial assistance of about Rs 50 crore per year for the past four years under the MIHD scheme and Rs 200 crore per year under the RKVY scheme for the promotion of various horticulture crops in the state," the Union Minister said.
Talking of urbanisation and erosion of wild bananas in their natural habitat, Radha Mohan Singh called for the need to conserve the available genetic diversity. "Musa wild species and its allied species form an important source of resistant genes for biotic and abiotic stresses. Biotic and abiotic stresses are the main constraints that reduce productivity considerably. Production constraints also vary from region to region. The complexity of problems calls for basic, strategic, and adaptive research to maximise productivity of banana crops," the Union Minister said.
Though banana and plantain breeding has its inherent complex issues, he said the latest biotechnology tools and approaches have been helpful in achieving projected results, he said, adding that the real impact of these approaches will be visible in the near future. With a production target of 60 million tonnes being projected for 2020, constraints, such as increasing input costs related to fertilisers, irrigation and management of pests and diseases, are being addressed to maximise production, the Union Minister pointed out.
India is the largest producer of banana in the word with 29.7 million tonnes from an area of 0.88 million hectares with a productivity of 37 MT/ha. Although India accounts for only 15.5 per cent in area, its contribution in the world's production is 25.58 per cent. Thus, banana has emerged as one of the important fruit crops, which is easily available to common man. It is predicted that with ever- increasing demand, 60 million tonnes of banana will be needed to meet the domestic demand in 2050. There is also a considerable scope for export of banana and its products, which further enhances the demand, the Minister said.
Assuring that new initiatives are being taken to give a fillip to areas like genetic engineering, molecular breeding, organic farming, integrated pest and disease management, physiological, bio-chemical and genetic basis for biotic and abiotic stress management, adoption of post-harvest technology, use of ripening chamber and value addition from waste to wealth, Singh said deliberations made at NBF 2018 will form the base for strengthening research and opening up new opportunities to fulfill its mandate in banana research and address the future challenges for higher growth and development, so that farmers' income could be doubled.
Dr C Suresh Kumar, General Secretary, CISSA welcomed the gathering for the event presided over by Kadakampally Surendran, Minister for Tourism, Devaswom & Cooperation, Kerala. During the presidential address, the minister said that Kerala, in various sectors, is emerging as a role model for the rest of the Indian states and for the whole world. Recalling the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he attended an event in Kerala, where PM said that Kerala is standing ahead of all the states in India in education, agriculture and various other sectors.
Raising concerns about the increase in lifestyle diseases in Kerala, Kadakamapally Surendran, Minister for Tourism, Cooperation and Devaswoms, Government of Kerala, said that love is high time that people reach back to their culture where farming is given importance. Pointing out that Vellayani is a place where people are still following the indigenous farming methods, the Minister said, the National Banana Festival 2018 will help educate farmers in adopting modern day agricultural methods.
Sri Suresh Gopi, MP, who inaugurated the Exhibition that is being held as part of NBF 2018, said foreign countries such as Canada host many of their events in villages in order to promote the villages. But when we look at the events happening here, most of them are held in towns instead of the villages. He expressed happiness over the fact that the National Banana Festival is the first such event being held in a village.
R Jayalakshmi, President, Kalliyoor Grama Panchayat, honoured the ministers with the Kerala traditional 'ponnada' and also presented them with a basketful each of various banana varieties. Renowned Agricultural Scientist, R Haly was honored at the event by the Union Minister.
O Rajagopal MLA; V K Madhu, President, District Panchayat, Thiruvananthapuram; G Chandra Mouli, Member, South Zone, KVIC; Adv S Suresh, District President, BJP; G R Anil; Dr G G Gangadharan, President CISSA; G S Sreekala, President, Venganoor Grama Panchayat; V Lathakumari, Member, Thiruvananthapuram District Panchayat; Vilappil Radhakrishnan, Vice President, Nemom Block Panchayat; S Jayanthi, Chairperson, Health & Education Standing Committee, Kalliyoor Panchayat; M Vinu, Member, Nemom Block Panchayat; M R Gopan, Councilor, Thiruvananthapuram Corporation; S Safeera Begam, Councilor, Thiruvananthapuram Corporation were among those present.
Earlier in the day, the National Seminar Technical Sessions as part of NBF 2018 also got off to a start at a function presided over by Dr GG Gangadharan, President, CISSA. Dr Ram Boojh, National Programme Officer, Ecological Sciences, UNESCO, New Delhi, was the guest of honour.