The arid earth of Kutch is witnessing huge success in horticulture. Mangoes, dates, bananas, papayas and amla are some of the fruits that have witnessed increased production there. Large farms and ready availability of water drive horticultural growth in the country’s largest district.
According to Dr Falgun K Modi, deputy director of horticulture, Kutch, “The region has a long history in horticulture production but in the last five years, mango production increased by 30% and dates have seen a 40% rise in production.”
Along with production, the quality of fruits has also gone up. Jayanti Thaker of Bhavesh Lucky Agro (BLA) says, “People now prefer Kutchi Kesar over Gir variety of mangoes. Five years ago, we sold mangoes grown in our area as Gir Kesar but today, we have our own brand and mangoes are sold as ‘Kutchi Kesar’ only.”
He further said that export demand is also good for the local variety. At least 25% of the mango production is exported.
BLA owns 1500 acres of land where Thaker grows mangoes, papayas and dates. During Kharif season, his firm also grows cotton on a large scale. Total production of mangoes (Kutchi Kesar) in Kutch is estimated at 150 lakh kg per year, of which 10 lakh kg is produced by BLA. According to locals, dates were first grown by the Turks some 100 years ago, working as labour for the rulers of the region. “Today, we have Kutchi variety of the fruit. It is larger and sweeter than the Arabic or Israeli variety commonly available,” added Modi. Kutch is the only region in India where large scale date production is done, estimated at 12 lakh kg a year.
Thaker believes horticulture needs a scientific approach to become a successful enterprise. “My entire farm employs drip irrigation facility. Plenty of water is available but water requirement for each variety of fruit is different. They require constant watch for proper development,” said Thaker.
Value addition horticulture is another sphere that Kutch is looking into. Mango pulp, date juice and powder are being explored as new avenues by farmers. BLA is setting up a plant here for production and export of mango pulp. “We have tied up with Emirates Trading Agency in Dubai to export mango pulp to UK,” said Mohammed Juneja, a partner in BLA. He expects production of pulp at 10 tonnes per day from this new plant which goes operational from 2013. He believes that present mango production is insufficient to run the pulp plant, making it commercially impractical, as of now.