Farmers in tribal-dominated Narmada district are embracing the latest entrant on the Indian horticulture scene — dragon fruit — which has found encouraging market acceptance in India. Originally from Central America, the fruit has leathery bright red skin and belongs to the cactus family. To cater to the growing market, several farmers in this region have planted dragon fruit, along with apple bore and a variety of guava originally belonging to Thailand and South Korea.
While the plant will yield first fruit by the middle of the next year, farmers from Dediapada and Nandod talukas in Narmada district said they were confident that the quality of the fruit in their farm will be among the best in the country. This is the first time that farmers in the state have planted dragon fruit on a commercial basis. Apple bore and hybrid guava are also among the fruits that farmers in the tribal-dominated district have started growing.
Rohit Vasava, a tribal farmer with a large land holding in Dediapada, planted as many as 5,000 dragon fruits in August this year after learning about the new fruit from a common friend. He said the plant was suitable for the soil condition in the hilly Dediapada region as the fruit can be grown on any type of soil and requires minimum amount of water. “Dragon fruit is the latest craze. In India, we are only getting imported dragon fruits which cost anywhere around Rs 600 for a kg. Upon learning about the new variety, we decided to go for it and brought plants from a nursery in Kolkata. We will only know about the quality of the fruit by the next year,” Vasava said.
Vasava is using solar-powered drip irrigation method to water the plants. Along with dragon fruit, he has also planted apple bore and Thailand guava on his farm, spread over 15 acre land. “Until last year, we used to grow cotton, maize and pulses. Apart from proper irrigation, they also required labour hand at least thrice every year. In the absence of enough farm hands in the village and because of the region being hilly and soil rocky, it was difficult to get proper yield. We hope the fruits will solve our problem,” said Sarjitbhai Chauhan, another farmer from the same village.
“We encountered large-scale labour problem in growing sugarcane which also requires proper irrigation for better yield. So, I started looking for an alternative and visited different farms, seeking guidance from experts. I visited a few farms in Dabhoi and Savli in Vadodara which successfully grew apple bore and decided to plant it over five acre land, replacing sugarcane,” said Dakshesh Patel from Badam village in Nandod taluka, who has planted 1,600 Thailand-variety guava on 5.5 acre land.
Smita Pillai, Narmada’s deputy director of horticulture, said so far banana was the only fruit grown by tribal farmers in the district. But a sudden shift to a variety of other fruits, such as apple bore, guava and dragon fruit by a few farmers, may inspire many more of them to grow these fruits. “These fruits are suitable for arid climate and rocky soil. They require less water and can find many more takers in months to come,” Pillai said.