Kozhikode: Locally grown fruits record decline in sales due to Nipah outbreak

Kochi: Small and large-scale fruit farmers of Kozhikode especially from the eastern hilly regions of the district are worried because the public are largely staying away from buying locally grown fruits like rambutan, dragon fruit and guava. This trend of declining sales for locally grown fruits due to the Nipah outbreak in the Kerala district was also seen during the first outbreak of the disease. seen in 2018.

Members of a medical team from Kozhikode Medical College carry areca nut and guava fruit samples to conduct tests for Nipah virus in Maruthonkara village in Kozhikode district, Kerala on September 13. (REUTERS)

The Nipah virus is primarily transmitted by fruit bats which are known to consume fruits like rambutan and guava.

Jose Kannanchira is a farmer in Maruthonkara panchayat who cultivates rambutan on a 1.5 acre land. In about two weeks, the fruits will be ripe for plucking. But so far, he has not got a positive response from wholesale dealers due to fall in sales as a result of the outbreak.

“The simple reason is that the people don’t want to eat fruits like rambutan due to Nipah fears. I have taken necessary precautions like covering the trees with nets so that bats don’t target the fruits. But still people are afraid. I am staring at a loss of nearly 2 lakh this time,” he said.

“Last year, I made close to 2.5 lakh from the produce. People were buying from the field on the spot,” he said.

Another farmer named K Joy, who cultivates exotic fruits, from neighbouring Kavilumpara has petitioned the chief minister , the district collector to extend financial assistance to those like him.

In Kozhikode city, retailers reported steep losses in sales of local fruits in the last two days.

Sabith, the manager of a retail shop selling fruits, said, “There has been a 60% fall in the sale of fruits like guava, rambutan and sapodilla. As these fruits come from neighbouring areas and surrounding districts, people are fearful. They are looking to buy imported fruit varieties of apples and oranges.”

Ashish, who runs a shop called Frootree in the city, said, “We are doing very well on imported fruits but people are not buying those coming from local markets. Even common varieties like Njalipoovan banana are not doing well.If this continues, it’s bad for farmers and retailers.”

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