Israeli booster dose for pomegranates
One of the major success stories in Israel’s agricultural revolution is its pomegranate crop, which is now exported to Europe and Russia. Fathi Abd EI Hadi, General Manager, Ksolot Agricultural Projects, tells Smart AgriPost that India’s pomegranate farmers can profit from Israel’s experience.
What is the scenario of pomegranate cultivation in Israel?
We have a big production area, spread over more than three thousand acres of pomegranate, which we started cultivating more than 10 or 15 years ago. We use a very modern and intensive method of cultivation of pomegranate, with added fertilisers. The aim is to increase the quality and quantity of produce in Israel in order to bring these products into export market especially in Europe.
What is the production per hectare?
Production depends on the varieties. It is about 25-30 tonnes per hectare in early varieties while in late varieties, it is 40-60 tonnes per hectare.
What is the best season for production of pomegranate?
The ripening of pomegranate starts from the end of July and lasts till October – so the harvesting happens in these three to four months. Pomegranates can be stored for another three to four months after harvest – so these pomegranates are available till February in the storage.
How are you helping pomegranate farmers get a good price for their produce?
Europe and Russia are our main markets. If you compare with Britain, you get pomegranate in Israel 50% more costly. It is due to better quality and size of our product. We are talking about the taste and softness of the product.
How do you ensure longevity of the fruit?
For early varieties, we store for 2-3 weeks by adding a chemical preservative to avoid fungal infection. They are kept in small boxes or big boxes to control air for different seasons. How much oxygen or how much carbon you put, depends on the season. We use a special plastic which preserves the quality of fruit for 3-4 months – suitable both for the local market and for export.
Is there private sector support for supply chain and post harvest management?
Yes, private parties play a big role. Some farmers also have store houses where they store pomegranate.
Is there a possibility of cooperation between India and Israel in the pomegranate sector?
The climatic conditions of India and Israel are different. So we cannot copy paste the Israeli model here. We have to adopt the local condition and apply the technology.
Do you mean there should be customisation of technology?
Yes. We met the Indian farmers and found the gaps. For example, for irrigation of the pomegranate crop, one needs to know when to irrigate and how much quantity of water needs to be given, according to the climate. We cannot get the result in one season. It takes years of trial and error to get it. For the improvement of this crop, we have to see previous crops.
What are the factors important in cultivation of pomegranate?
The most important factors are the local conditions, that includes the climatic conditions, soil conditions – whether it is salty or not, heavy or light – and water conditions. Secondly, one needs to know the awareness level of the farmers, especially their education levels and their comfort with technology, especially computers.
Which states show greater potential of producing pomegranates in India?
You have much more potential to produce pomegranates in the existing orchards or new orchards if you can use technology like drip irrigation. For example, Maharashtra is hot throughout the year, necessitating the use of greater quantity of water. In Haryana on the other hand, there are seasonal variations. So we have to limit for specific month in order to get the fruit. Regarding the soil, pomegranate is a medium tolerant to salinity. We are not going to different states. The farmers are coming to us and we give them the solutions.
What is the reason for the decline in the production and export of pomegranate from India?
The problem is plant protection, that is, bacterial infection which contributes to the decrease of the quantity of produce. Moreover, many farmers are planting infected tree. Secondly, the average yield of Indian varieties is low.
These are the two reasons that the production in India is decreasing. If you can think a solution for Maharashtra for example, you start planting disease free plants from the nursery. You have to have a nursery with disease-free varieties which can then be propagated. In this way you get a healthy plantation and production will be high.
Regarding the quality, many countries in Mediterranean and even in the Southern hemisphere have started to produce pomegranates. So the competition is very high. In India they produce only in one season that is in summer. If you improve the quality of product, then you can export more.
Do you have any plan to invest in research and processing industry in India?
Under Indo-Israel partnership project, we took an Indian delegation to Israel to show what we are doing in Israel. Our officers also came to India to help train agricultural scientists and farmers.
What are the challenges of doing business in India?
The Israeli industry does have very innovative solutions but the companies who are standing behind these innovations are small and medium companies and not big companies. So for these small and medium companies to do business in India is a challenge as India is very vast. They must know how to focus their resources. We have a few success stories and we are consulting some post harvest companies to establish a solution. I think the solution should be the ability and strength of both sides to be active in the market of India. We can also explore joint ventures with a local partner in India. Government platforms like the centres of excellence to help educate farmers can also be explored.
What are the other potential states apart from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh?
Rajasthan which has warm weather, no monsoon and cold winter, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh are some of the states. But we need information and data. At the end of the day, the farmer knows the potential better than us.