Kochi: Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd, a Khandesh-based company in Maharashtra, has exported 66,000 tissue-cultured banana plants to an Oman farm that are expected to cover around 55 hectares (ha) of land.
Company joint managing director, Ajit Jain, while claiming that this was the first export of banana plants by a company from India, said the firm was in talks with neighbouring countries for similar attempts. He refused to divulge details of the value of the export, claiming that it was a first attempt and the market was still in its infancy.
Pioneer in biotechnology, the company had developed plant tissue culture or micropropagation of banana plants called Jain’s Grand-Nain variety. The technology of propagation involves taking a piece of a plant, either its stem tip or node and placing it in a sterile nutrient medium to multiply and produce clones of the plant. The laboratory has a capacity for producing 10 million plants annually. The company is also looking at exporting the technology.
An Oman agro company, Dohfar Group, has held various field trials and zeroed in on Jain Irrigation for the tissue-cultured banana plants.
Unlike Indian conditions—where around 1,500 plants can be planted in an acre of land—in Oman, it will have to be limited to around 400-450. With the Oman farm having nearly 1,000ha at its disposal, the company hopes to get further orders, he adds.
The banana market potential is very high in West Asian countries. The demand is now being met through exports from the Philippines and South American countries. With Jain Irrigation’s entry, the situation can change rapidly, he added. According to vice-chairman, Ashok Jain, the company spearheaded its biotechnology initiatives in 1993-94 with a capacity to tissue-culture 50,000 banana plants. The initiative met with overwhelming response from the farming community. It is now catering to the tissue-cultured banana plant needs of farmers in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Punjab and Orissa.
The annual yield for traditional banana farming was 24 tonnes per?hectare?in 1984-85. Drip irrigation gave a boost to production and the yield per hectare increased to 65 tonnes. Tissue-culture technology further enhanced this yield to 95 tonnes per hectare. The graph from traditional banana farming to modern farming shows a 375% rise, he added. Traditional banana plants bloom in 16-18 months while the tissue-cultured plants bloom in 11 months.
Jain Irrigation is a diversified firm with 4,000-plus workers and more than Rs275 crore market capitalization.