Updated: October 10, 2021 8:55:57 pm
Gowers of custard apples and figs in Purandhar taluka of Pune district aim to replicate the success of grape growers of Nashik in taking their produce beyond traditional markets and overseals. Over the past three years, Purandhar Highlands — a Farmer Producers Company (FPC), has been trying to organise growers along scientific lines to help them reach wider markets with better returns.
Rohan Ursal, managing director of the company, said they decided to upscale their operations after realising the demand for their produce. The dry loamy soil of Purandhar is ideal for the growth of custard apple and figs but given the highly perishable nature of the fruits, farmers have not been able to explore the full potential of the markets. “Custard apple from Purandhar has a very unique taste and can’t be replicated anywhere else. Figs from our area have been awarded GI tag, proving their speciality,” he added.
These fruits require special packaging and post-harvesting techniques to ensure they are transportable. Produce from Purandhar has made its way to Hyderabad and other markets but the volume has been low. “Unfortunately, we have not seen research in both these fruits — what we need is the kind of research that helped grapes and pomegranates capture world markets,” he said.
Before the pandemic, Ursal, who is a commission agent in Pune marketyard, had begun talks with various state agricultural universities to encourage them to take up research in the fruits. “Before the lockdown, we had planned to visit the US to understand the varieties grown there. We have plans to get such varieties in India to help our farmers grow fruits with more shelf life,” he said. However, these plans were shelved in the wake of the Covid lockdowns. Also in the pipeline was collaboration with input companies for better agricultural practices. “Everything depends on the fruit grown – we aim to train our growers to grow and pluck quality produce,” he said.
While such plans have been shelved, the FPC has started networking with farmers to develop a market. Also in place are post-harvest centres that will help farmers pack their produce in a scientific manner. The project, which had only a few farmers at first, now has several thousand farmers in its net. “Farmers have the assurance that they will be able to sell their produce, however small the quantity,” he said.
Recently, Ursal met Union Minister Nitin Gadkari to discuss the possibility of better road transport. “We can replicate the success of grapes and pomegranate in our produce provided we have good transport infrastructure. The next phase of growth will see us working on this,” said Ursal.
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