Kozhikode: Jose Kannanchira, a 65-year-old farmer from Maruthongara panchayat in rural Kozhikode, turned to cultivating exotic fruits seven years ago as it was profitable compared to other crops.
By harvesting 'high-on-demand' fruits like rambutan on his 1.5-acre land, he generates an income of Rs 2 lakh every year, on average.
This year too, he reaped a good harvest and a wholesale fruit merchant even agreed to buy around a tonne of his produce for Rs 2 lakh. However, the unprecedented Nipah outbreak had other plans for Jose.
With Maruthongara panchayat being among the containment zones under high alert, as it is where the index patient hailed from, Jose lost his buyer and he is now struggling to figure out what to do with his harvest.
The news of fruit bats being natural carriers of the deadly Nipah virus has further dented Jose's chances of finding customers as people are largely staying away from buying locally grown exotic fruits like rambutan, dragon fruit and guava.
"The fruits are in ready-to-harvest condition and they should be plucked within the next two weeks. However, no buyer has approached me so far and I have lost all hope of being able to sell even a single fruit this time as people are wary of consuming locally-grown fruit owing to the virus outbreak,” said Jose.
He said he was careful to cover the fruit plants from bats using nets to cover the harvest. “But, the people are afraid and now I am staring at a loss of Rs 2 lakh this season,” said Jose.
“Last year, I earned a revenue of over Rs.2.5 lakh,” said Jose. He even remembers people purchasing the fruit directly from his field.
Jose seeks government intervention
Jose expressed his disappointment over government officials advising people to avoid eating locally-grown fruits as a preventive measure against Nipah.
“How can they make such unscientific statements without ascertaining that fruit bats are indeed the source of the Nipah virus in the region?” asked Jose.
He further said he has submitted a memorandum to the state government and the collector seeking their intervention and support in the issue.
With exotic fruits like rambutan, mangosteen, dragon fruit and guava attracting good prices, many farmers have shifted to fruit cultivation from the traditional crops in the upland area of Kozhikode district.
Like Jose, fruit farmers in the area are left without a market to sell their produce due to the Nipah outbreak.
The fruit market, in general, has witnessed a significant drop in the market in Kozhikode due to the virus.