Farmer pioneers passion fruit farming in Maharashtra; earns Rs 9 lakh per acre

Pandurang Baral began organic farming of passion fruit in the drought-prone Indapur taluka of Maharashtra in 2021. He now makes an annual profit of Rs7 lakh per acre and helps other farmers to start the cultivation of this exotic fruit

Riya Singh
New Update
Pandurang Baral at his farm in Indapur, Maharashtra

Pandurang Baral at his farm in Indapur, Maharashtra

Pandurang Baral had been growing guavas, jamun and pomegranate on his farm in Indapur, Maharashtra for over 15 years. While they gave him steady returns, he wanted to  cultivate exotic fruits to earn more. In 2021, he saw a video on passion fruit farming in Rajasthan and decided to try it.

“I visited the farmer in Kushalgarh, Rajasthan, who had only a limited number of plants. I took some fruits from him, removed the seeds and gave them to my friend, who owns a nursery, to prepare the saplings,” says Pandurang. 

Pandurang’s friend prepared 125 saplings out of which he planted 100 over three guntha (0.075 acres) in May 2021. The fruits were harvested in October of that year. 

“Being a new fruit in the region, I did not know how to market it. I gave the fruits to a juice maker who prepared fruit juice. It received very good feedback and people reported good taste and feeling healthier,” he recollects.

Passion fruit, which came from Mexico, contains high levels of antioxidants and vitamins important for skin, vision, and the immune system. A rich source of fibre, it has a low glycemic index, which makes it a good option for maintaining blood sugar. The fruit has a soft pulp and lots of seeds. The seeds and pulp can be eaten or juiced.

Exotic fruits like mangosteen, passion fruit, dragon fruit, figs, and others are rapidly gaining popularity in India. Madhya Pradesh is the leader with 11.35 lakh hectares under exotic fruit farming which yields 12 million metric tonnes of fruits. It is followed by Maharashtra which ranks second with 11.20 lakh hectares, producing about 11 million metric tonnes.

Also Read: Maharashtra’s engineer-farmer earns profit of Rs 9 lakh per acre from dragon fruit farming

How to grow passion fruit

Since passion fruit is highly resistant to pests and diseases, it does not require any chemical inputs and can be grown organically. “I was impressed with the results as it does not require sprays except organic inputs like cow dung and neem cake. So I decided to cultivate it over a larger area in the next season,” Pandurang says.

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Passion fruit at Pandurang Baral's farm. Pic: Courtesy Pandurang Baral

In 2022, he planted 500 saplings over one acre out of his 10.5-acre farm. The plant-to-plant gap for passion fruit is 7 feet and row-to-row spacing is 10 feet. The saplings are placed in pits which are about 1.5 feet in depth and width. It has to be planted between May 1 and 15 to ensure plants benefit from Monsoon rains. “At this time, plants do not require any organic manure and the temperatures are high,” he explains.

Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram are the top producers of passion fruit. Since it is a tropical and subtropical fast-growing vine, it needs the support of a trellis just like grapes. The initial investment for preparing the trellis is Rs2.5 lakh per acre. However, it is a strong structure that can last beyond 10 years. 

Also Read: This 29-year-old grows organic exotic fruits in his backyard, gets bumper crops

Pandurang prepares his saplings and also sells them at Rs40 per plant. “I keep the rates of passion fruit saplings low so that small farmers can also take up its farming, which is very profitable,” he says.

For farmers, the cost of saplings will be another Rs20,000, taking the per acre cost of passion fruit farming, including trellis, to around Rs2.75 lakh.

“I sell the saplings when they are 2.5 months old. I have to supply 5,000 pieces this season. I send them in trays with coco peat,” he adds. June and July are the months to add manure as it starts raining, the temperature reduces and the soil can absorb the nutrients. “I add cow dung manure, neem khali (neem cake to strengthen the soil and take care of any insects) and organic NPK fertilizer,” he says. 

Flowering starts in July and harvest continues till January. Pic: Courtesy Pandurang Baral

NPK contains three essential nutrients needed for plant growth and good health -- nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). “By July, the plant height increases to 5-6 feet and then it starts flowering. The first harvest is ready by October and the season continues till January,” he says.

Also Read: 74-year-old retired IRS officer finds his passion in organic pomegranate farming

Revenues and costs in passion fruit farming

Passion fruit is harvested when it has reached a minimum size of 4-5 cm in diameter and has turned yellow or purple, according to the variety. Typically, a passion fruit vine continues to give good yields for about five to six years after which its productivity begins to decline. “This year is my third season with this plantation over one acre. We have to see how long these plants continue to give fruits,” Pandurang says.

While in the first year, he did not know about the marketing of passion fruit, from 2022 onwards, he began selling the produce to Big Basket, Amazon, Reliance Mart, and some wholesalers from Surat. 

Passion fruits grown at Pandurang Baral's farm. Pic: Courtesy Pandurang Baral

“The online marketplaces and retail giants have a collection centre nearby where I sell organic passion fruit at Rs 225 per kg,” he says. One acre gives around 4 tonnes of yield. Passion fruit grows densely but weighs less, between 70 gm and 140 gm per piece, he says.

“At Rs 225 per kg, a farmer can earn around Rs 9 lakh per acre. If you deduct the costs of labour and organic inputs, the profit is at least Rs6.5 lakh to Rs 7 lakh per acre,” he explains.

Organic farming of passion fruit does not require too much water. “The flowering coincides with monsoon, reducing the requirement of water. During the rest of the year, we used drip irrigation on few days in a week. In March and April, plants have to be cut and pruned for the next season. We cut the plants, leaving only about one to 1.5 feet from the ground level, and add manure and water,” he says.

Once the plant reaches 2.5 feet, around monsoon, the vines start climbing the trellis once again.

Because of its high profitability, Pandurang is a strong votary of passion fruit farming. “Not many farmers are doing it in Maharashtra. If farmers can invest in trellis, passion fruit cultivation is very profitable and does not require very high maintenance. Farmers can also do intercropping as the trellis provides shade to grow vegetables,” he says.

(Riya Singh is a Ranchi-based journalist who writes on environment, sustainability, education & women empowerment)

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