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Dragon Fruit, a Boon for Farmers in Kachchh

The fruit, called kamalam, is intrinsically organic, survives Kachchh’s trying climate and is valued for its unique health benefits.

Ayushi Raina
Dragon Fruit
Dragon Fruit

Kachchh is located in the semi-arid zone of Gujarat and is known for its harsh weather conditions, with summer temperature reaching 50 degrees Celsius and winter temperatures reaching 3 degrees or less. Water resources account for only 3% of the overall resources of the state.

Agriculture is the primary source of income, though animal husbandry is also an equally significant activity. 

None of the rivers in the Kachchh region are perennial. The monsoon is quite erratic, with annual rainfall averaging 300-350 mm. As a result, drought or scarcity conditions are a common occurrence in Kachchh. Because of the district's proximity to the Arabian Sea and the scarcity of rains refilling the groundwater, saline infiltration is rapid. 

According to the Central Ground Water Board, Kachchh is one of the districts with salinity, fluoride, chloride, iron, and nitrate concerns which impact cropping patterns and agricultural productivity. 

Many changes have occurred in the post-earthquake times in order to revitalize the regional economy of Kachchh. One example is the growing interest in the horticulture sector among local farmers and others who have previously relocated to Maharashtra and abroad and are now looking to return to their homeland. The latter category invests in huge areas of land for horticultural purposes. 

These new entrants offer technical know-how with the goal of increasing output while using limited resources. Because of the harsh climate, farmers in Kachchh do not have to face pests and diseases. AnjarAbdasaNakhatrana, Bhuj, and Mandvi have superior aquifers and develop a wide range of horticulture crops such as mango, sapota, citrus fruits, date palm, banana, kamalam (dragon) fruit, guava, pomegranate, papaya, and custard apple. 

Dragon fruit (renamed kamalam by the Gujarat government in January 2021 due to its vibrant pink color and conical shape) originated in Central and South America and has spread to Asian countries. 

Kamalam fruit farming is gaining traction in India, particularly in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu. The fruit is juicy and contains small black seeds. The skin is discarded while the fleshy section is consumed. According to Ahmedabad wholesale fruit sellers, the red flesh variety is favored in the export and domestic markets because it includes lycopene, which is believed to boost immunity and reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. 

Kamalam is a relatively recent entrant to Kachchh, having been introduced in 2014, but it is quickly grabbing the attention of farmers due to its ability to withstand the severe summer weather. Kamalam plantation demands moisture, hence regulated watering by micro irrigation system is beneficial to the plantation. 

The kamalam plant develops to be about five to six feet tall, during which point it requires support. In the beginning, Kachchh farmers supported the plant with a five-foot pole and a concrete ring. 

 Lowering Costs: 

The initial cost per pole is Rs.600, which includes the pole, ring, four plants, and labor. An acre of land would contain around 550 poles. The plants are wire-tied to the pole, and when they begin to droop, a concrete ring mounted on the top of the pole offers support, which is required while the plant is bearing fruit — the weight of each fruit varies between 150 and 300 grams. 

Farmers have come up with creative solutions to reduce the initial cost, such as installing iron poles and wires like in grape orchards, and discarded scooter tyres in place of concrete rings. The costs have been cut in half as a result of these modifications. 

The plant begins to yield after the first year, and the production grows year after year until it reaches an average of 20-25 kg per plant by the fourth year. The season begins in late June and lasts until November. While the wholesale price is between 100 and 150 per kg, the retail price ranges between 250 and 300 per kg. 

The lifespan of the kamalam plant is 25-30 years. Farmers propagate from the mature plants. The naturally organic kamalam is more of a health fruit since it is high in Vitamin C and is believed to aid improve platelet count during infectious diseases. 

Kamalam plantation is currently expanding in other parts of the country, and as supply grows, the price will fall and become more affordable to the average person. A horticulturist in Kachchh has experimented with using the fruit's discarded skin in toiletries and beauty care products.

If this experiment is successful, the possibility of establishing units to further process the fruit will emerge. Kamalam farming, due to its low cost and durability, provides a chance for farmers in less fruitful areas to increase their income. 

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