The kiwi as a source of wine

Its vineyards thriving with high-quality fruit,Arunachal Pradesh ties up with Pune company for India’s first homemade kiwi wine

Guwahati | Published: December 27, 2013 5:51 am

Its vineyards thriving with high-quality fruit,Arunachal Pradesh ties up with Pune company for India’s first homemade kiwi wine

Arunachal Pradesh is looking at the kiwi,or Chinese gooseberry,as a cash crop that would not only bring prosperity to its tribal cultivators but also allow setting up of a couple of units to manufacture kiwi wine,which in itself is a high-priced product on the national market.

Last week,the Arunachal Pradesh Horticulture Produce Marketing and Processing Board (APHPMPB) signed an MoU with a Pune-based company,Hill Crest Foods and Beverages Pvt Ltd,for supply of the fruit for the manufacture of wine,initially as a pilot project.

“We have signed the MoU for initial supply of 3,500 kg kiwi,from which the company is supposed to produce 5,000 litres kiwi wine,” said Tage Tatung,managing director of APHMPB. “Once this project clicks,we propose to set up a manufacturing unit in Arunachal Pradesh so that it also helps generate employment.”

Tatung said the kiwi wine produced would be initially marketed in Arunachal Pradesh and Maharashtra before it is sent out to the national market.

“This will be first time kiwi wine will be produced in India,” said Akalpit Arvind Prabhune,managing director of Rhythm Winery,a division of Hill Crest Foods. “So long whatever little kiwi wine is available in the country is being imported from New Zealand. But as the demand is increasing and we have found very good quality kiwi fruits in Arunachal Pradesh,we are soon going to manufacture kiwi wine in Pune,which will be initially sold in Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh.”

Rhythm Winery is already producing strawberry and pineapple wine. “There is a big market for refreshing wines that have very low alcohol content,and kiwi wine is one item that will be able to meet this demand,” Prabhune said.

The kiwi was introduced to Arunachal Pradesh in late 1992. From Dirang in West Kameng district then,kiwi cultivation has now spread to several other districts. Tatung said around 700 families have already taken up kiwi cultivation on a commercial level.

“When we first introduced about a dozen kiwi plants in the departmental apple nursery in Dirang in 1992,the farmers were not sure what exactly we were trying to tell them. They thought it was another variety of grape,” Tatung said. “But now farmers are increasingly asking for technical support to grow more kiwi plants,especially in Lower Subansiri,Anjaw,West Siang and West Kameng districts.”

Official estimates have put the total area under kiwi cultivation at a little over 3,000 hectares; the total production was 4,541 tonnes in 2011-12. While most of the fruit had so far been going out to the market through unorganised private channels,APHPMPB this year facilitated the sale of 20 tonnes to a Delhi-based company,Crop Connect,with farmers getting Rs 55 a kilogram.

“The entire lot of 20 tonnes that we supplied to Crop Connect comprised kiwi fruits that weighed 90 grams and over,” Tatung said,describing the quality of kiwis grown in Arunachal Pradesh. The North-Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation (NERAMAC) too has been procuring kiwi from the state.

Tatung said the climatic and soil conditions in Arunachal Pradesh,spread across the eastern Himalayas,are very favourable for kiwi cultivation. Moreover,the average size of each fruit is also satisfactory,with about 80 per cent weighing above 50 grams.

The kiwi fruit originated from China (hence the popular name Chinese gooseberry),occuring naturally as a deciduous fruiting vine in southwestern China. It was introduced in New Zealand in the early 20th century,and acquired its current name.

A commercial crop in several countries such as Italy,Greece and Chile,besides New Zealand,kiwi is also being cultivated in other northeastern states such as Nagaland,Meghalaya,Manipur and Assam. The fruit is packed with vitamin-C as well as numerous phytonutrients and minerals.

The kiwi vine grows well between 900 and 1,600 metres above mean sea level wherever the climate is warm and humid. The plant flourishes under moderate and high rainfall conditions but can be easily destroyed by strong wind and frost during the growing period. While rainfall of about 150 cm is sufficient,the ideal summer temperature should be within 35 degrees because the fruits are vulnerable to sunburn. A deep friable sandy loam soil,well drained and supplied with irrigation,is ideal for growing kiwi vines.

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