HomeBreaking NewsUnsold Bananas Highlight Crumbling Infrastructure and Soaring Losses in India

Unsold Bananas Highlight Crumbling Infrastructure and Soaring Losses in India

Bhubaneswar, India – As the sun rises in Bhubaneswar, wholesaler Gadadhara Mohanty anxiously awaits the arrival of banana-laden trucks from Andhra Pradesh, located hundreds of kilometers away. Without refrigeration, any delay in selling his bananas can slash their value by at least 10%. “There’s a huge loss during summer months if the sales lag,” he laments.

This situation underscores a broader issue plaguing India: despite being the world’s largest producer of bananas, the country faces significant post-harvest losses due to inadequate cold storage and infrastructure. Each year, about 15% of fruits and vegetables are lost after harvest, exacerbating the persistent problems of malnutrition and hunger.

Infrastructural Shortcomings and Economic Impact

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made strides in modernizing infrastructure, but progress in the agricultural sector remains sluggish. The short shelf life of produce like bananas makes them particularly vulnerable. Trucks transporting bananas from Andhra Pradesh to Bhubaneswar travel nearly 24 hours, with the fruit merely covered by leaves to stay cool – a far cry from an ideal solution.

Pawanexh Kohli, former chief of the state-run National Centre for Cold-Chain Development, points out, “The cold storage capacity hasn’t done justice to the small-holder farmers of our country. They are forced to make distress sales.”

Soaring temperatures are further compounding the crisis. In Andhra Pradesh, farmers like Venkatanaidu Guntreddi, who cultivates bananas across 150 acres, face substantial financial setbacks from crop spoilage due to extreme weather. “There is no profit in cultivation because brokers make most of the money and we are hit by extreme weather,” says Guntreddi.

Limited Cold Storage Capacity

India’s existing cold storage capacity exceeds 30 million tons, primarily used for staples like potatoes. However, there is a severe shortage of refrigerated trucks and pack-houses essential for preserving fruits and vegetables post-harvest. The government provides subsidies to set up storage facilities, but many farmers find the costs prohibitive despite these incentives.

Siraj Hussain, a former farm secretary, notes that the informal nature of most food sales – via street vendors and small shops – discourages large investments in modernizing infrastructure.

Daily Struggles and Adaptations

Farmers and vendors adapt as best they can. Bhanu Rokkam, a banana farmer from Thotapalli, starts his harvest at dawn to avoid the scorching sun. Brokers buy his produce at prices significantly lower than during cooler months. In Odisha, street vendors like Mahadev Barik limit their purchases to what they can sell within a day, sometimes incurring losses up to 30% when forced to sell at reduced prices due to extreme heat.

“The bananas turn black during the day,” says Barik, who now sells his bananas in the evenings to minimize losses.

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