Meghalaya Pineapple Fest - 2023, organized by the Government of Meghalaya, kicked off on Day 1 at the iconic Dilli Haat, INA, New Delhi, celebrating Meghalaya’s famed produce, the succulent Kew pineapples.
The event commenced with the distinguished presence of the chief guest Minister of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj, Giriraj Singh; Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Conrad K Sangma, Cabinet Minister, Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare Department,Dr. Ampareen Lyngdoh, Cabinet Minister of Tourism Department, Paul Lyngdoh; Commissioner & Secretary, Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare Department, Government of Meghalaya Dr. Vijay Kumar D, and Secretary, Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare Department, Government of Meghalaya, Isawanda Laloo.
The Minister of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj, Giriraj Singh shared his thoughts on the significance of agricultural diversity and collaboration between states, “I would like to express my appreciation for the Government of Meghalaya's initiative in organizing this event. It's a step in the right direction towards promoting sustainable agricultural practices, fostering inter-state cooperation, and enhancing the livelihoods of farmers. In the context of our nation's agricultural landscape, diversity is not just a word; it's a treasure trove of opportunities. Events like these encourage us to explore the possibilities that lie within our own states, learn about their unique agricultural practices, and adapt them for the benefit of all. Meghalaya's pineapples have garnered a reputation for their exquisite taste and quality. This event provides a platform not only to showcase this unique produce but also to highlight the hard work and dedication of the farmers who nurture our land.”
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Conrad K Sangma said, “This event marks a significant moment in our journey to showcase the essence of Meghalaya's culture, agriculture, and unity. The Meghalaya Pineapple Fest is more than just a celebration of our state's succulent produce; it's a platform to share the diversity of our culture, the innovation in our agriculture, and the unity that binds our people. Our pineapples are not merely fruits; they are a testament to the fertile land, dedicated farmers, and the rich legacy that Meghalaya carries. As we gather here in New Delhi, far from the rolling hills and serene landscapes of Meghalaya, we bring a piece of our home to share with the world. Let us cherish the moments of togetherness, embrace the culture, and savor the sweetness of Meghalaya, right here in the heart of New Delhi. I take pride in telling you all that with persistent effort the Government of Meghalaya and all stakeholders associated, the pineapples from Meghalaya are being sold across malls in Dubai, Kuwait and Sharjah. For enhanced production a mobile processing unit at Umdihar IVCS, in Umdihar Village (Ri Bhoi) has been set up. The Meghalaya pineapples are famous for their high-sugar content (brix value of 16-18) and low sourness. The pineapples in the State are mostly being cultivated without any use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, resulting in significantly lower heavy metal and pesticide residue in the fruit. These traits make them highly suitable for lucrative international and national markets. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Government of India for providing us with this platform to showcase our achievements and aspirations. I am also thankful to all our partners, performers, and participants who have come together to make this event a resounding success.”
On the occasion of the 77th Independence Day, the State of Meghalaya outlined its ambitious plan for 'Magnificent Meghalaya.' Aspiring to double the State's GDP, Meghalaya identifies agriculture and allied sectors as pivotal drivers of economic growth. This sector has the potential to create lakhs of employment opportunities in the next 5 years.
Meghalaya is blessed with diverse agro-climatic conditions and is home to a wide array of agricultural and horticultural produce. Rooted in traditional practices, most of the crops are cultivated in an organic manner. These factors (favourable agro-climatic conditions, organic practices and endemic varieties) make produce from Meghalaya unique in terms of their quality and taste. High-value products like Lakadong Turmeric, the GI-tagged Khasi mandarin, and Kew pineapples are gaining popularity, making their way to European and Middle Eastern markets.
Over recent times, the pineapples from the State have been gaining more popularity. The North-Eastern States contribute a whopping 51.18% of the total pineapple production in the country, with Meghalaya contributing 7.69% (APEDA 2021-22), making the State one of the top 5 pineapple producing States in India.
The Meghalayan pineapples have the lowest pesticide and heavy metal residuein the country. Also, in regard to taste, they are less sour and significantly sweeter. The pineapples have a Brix value of 16-18, which indicates to the sweetness of the fruit. A testament to the quality of the State’s pineapple, they are being exported to Switzerland to be used in baby food. As the pineapples from Meghalaya are among the rare few in the country that can pass the stringent food testing standards set in place for the European market.
This season has been a fruitful one for pineapple growers of the State as many have realised an increase of up-to 100% in farmgate price for their produce. As a result of timely marketing interventions from the State government, Meghalayan pineapples are now gracing shelves in malls across the Middle East (Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Kuwait).
The efforts closer home has resulted in sustained market linkages with domestic processors and retailers. Last year, over 40 tonnes of pineapples were shipped to a Karnataka based processor to be further exported to European and North American markets. These pineapples were shipped by a farmer collective from a quaint little village called Umdihar.It is situated in the midst of the rolling hills of Ri bhoi district, about 50kms from Shillong, with a population of less than 500 households. This year, the same processor has established a mobile processing unit in collaboration with the farmer collective from Umdihar, for taking in larger quantities of pineapples. And over 50 tonnes of Pineapples have been processed by the unit in the first couple of weeks of its operation.
The processing units require pineapples weighing a kilogram and above and do not accept fruits of smaller sizes. During harvest season, entire fields are harvested for sale, but only the large pineapples (Grade A) are procured by the processing units. This leaves the farmers with a large quantity of smaller sized pineapples (Grade B aka table variety). Since the ripening accelerates post-harvest, these table-variety pineapples are often sold at throw away prices. To mitigate distress sale of these table-variety pineapples, the State government is actively exploring market linkages with local retailers and have recently established linkages with Reliance Retail stores across Assam for sale of table-variety pineapples from Meghalaya. As a result of this intervention the farmers are now able to get over two times the price for the table-variety pineapples.
Being cognizant of the challenges and issues being faced by the farmers of the State, the government has been actively working towards building community-centric, grassroot level solutions. Over the past 3 years, the government’s efforts have been to drive community-led change in the agriculture sector. This is being achieved by mobilising farmers to form farmer collectives and then investing in strengthening these farmer collectives. To strengthen these collectives, the government ensures availability of good quality planting material, provides training on good agriculture practices, builds infrastructure for value addition and post-harvest management, and facilitates market linkages.
These efforts are slowly coming to fruition now. The government has been working towards mobilising the farmers to form farmer cooperatives and farmer producer organisations (FPOs) across the State and over 350 such collectives have been formed in the last 3 years. The State government has been hand-holding these collectives so that they are able to replace the middlemen and transition to better production and marketing. Collective efforts are transforming the way pineapple is traded in the State. Earlier the farmers were selling pineapples by piece, with each piece being sold for anywhere between INR 7 to 12 per piece. The pineapple weight from 600 gms to 2kgs and irrespective of the weights of the fruit the farmers would receive a lumpsum amount from the traders. Now, through support from the government in undertaking institutional trades, farmer collectives are understanding the importance of trading in ‘Kgs.’ The recent trades have seen their income increase by over twice as they are selling their produce for INR 16 to 24 per Kg to national and international buyers.
The government has undertaken various initiatives to fortify the primary sector in the State. Partnering with the International Potato Centre in Peru, Meghalaya aims to lead in potato seed production and self-sufficiency. Alongside traditional crops, cinnamon, cocoa, lavender, vanilla, saffron, and buckwheat are also being introduced in the State. The State supports agriculture-based collectives by providing substantial grants of up to 50 lakhs for setting up food processing units, cold storages, and aggregation infrastructure. All these interventions further bolster the agricultural value supply chain in the State and have resulted in many remarkable successes.
Similar success stories span over the products like Lakadong Turmeric, Ginger, Khasi mandarin, Honey, and Black pepper. Over the past three years, Government of Meghalaya has focused on driving community-led change in agriculture. This involves forming and strengthening farmer collectives through quality planting material, training, infrastructure development, and market connections.