National Banana Festival focused on Genetic engineering and molecular breeding
Genetic engineering, molecular breeding and organic farming hogged the discussions during the five-day National Banana Festival, the first ever of its kind to be held, that drew to a close in rural Thiruvananthapuram.
Banana farming assumes much importance in the Indian scenario, since the country ranks first in global banana production and accounts for 25.58 per cent of global production. It also makes for 36.6 per cent of the total fruit production in the country.
Banana and plantain are widely grown in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, Bihar, east Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and the North-Eastern States.
The banana industry provides employment to thousands of people. It is also a fact that only one per cent of the banana produced is exported. Also organic banana, it has been revealed, is an emerging sector in global trade.
Inaugurating the festival, Union Minister for Agriculture Radha Mohan Singh said that the Centre was committed to providing all possible assistance to farmers of horticulture crops. He pointed to the efforts by the Central and State governments that 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 on 1,18,697 hectares, and the addition of 21,200 hectares augurs well for the sector,” he said.
The 32 Special Agricultural Zones declared by the Kerala government would help increase the productivity of different crops native to those regions. Teh entire Thrissur district has been declared a Special Agricultural Zone for banana.
The Centre’s Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIHD) scheme has benefited banana farmers. The Union Minister said the Centre is committed to provide the required assistance to farmers for all horticulture crops.
“We have been providing financial assistance of about ₹50 crore per year for the past four years under the MIHD scheme and ₹200 crore per year under the RKVY scheme for the promotion of various horticulture crops in the State.”
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.