From Mexico, Thailand to U.P. villages; dragon fruit farming a growing trend among farmers

ByAakash Ghosh
Sep 24, 2023 08:18 PM IST

In several districts of Uttar Pradesh, numerous farmers are opting to cultivate this exotic fruit alongside traditional crops.

LUCKNOW Dragon fruit has recently garnered considerable attention from Indian cultivators. Its appeal isn’t merely due to its resemblance to the mythical creature “dragon” or its vibrant red-purple hue. Rather, it’s the fruit’s economic value and its vast health benefits that have led to high demand.

Farmers showing their yield in their farms (HT Photo)
Farmers showing their yield in their farms (HT Photo)

In several districts of Uttar Pradesh, numerous farmers are opting to cultivate this exotic fruit alongside traditional crops. They are attracted by the promising returns on investment and government subsidies, a shift from the fruit’s previous exclusive growth in the southern and eastern states of India.

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According to the horticulture department, over 300 farmers in the Mirzapur and Varanasi regions are cultivating dragon fruit on approximately 125 acres of land. Similarly, 60-70 farmers in Sonbhadra have dedicated 45 acres of their land to dragon fruit cultivation.

RK Tomar, former director of the Department of Horticulture, U.P, stated, “Other districts, such as Prayagraj, Barabanki, Lucknow, and various regions across the state, have also commenced commercial cultivation and are growing it in their gardens for personal use.”

More Profitable Than Traditional Fruit Farming

“Dragon fruit yields rapid returns with economic production within the first year of planting, reaching full production in 3-4 years. Once planted, a dragon fruit plant continues to produce for 20-25 years, with an average economic yield of 10 tonnes per acre after two years,” revealed Meva Ram, the district horticulture officer (DHO) of Mirzapur, who introduced the concept to farmers in 2015.

“From the third year onwards, one can generate a profit of approximately 10 lakh per acre, with each fruit selling for between 50 and 60, and subsequently doubling in price at retail,” he added.

“The demand is so high that farmers are struggling to keep up. Even local markets are unable to meet the export demands,” mentioned the DHO, who claimed his region produces the highest number of dragon fruit in the state to his knowledge.

At present, the market rate is 100 per kg of fruit, but “here, it is being sold at a rate between 350-400 per kg,” revealed Jagdish Singh, a Mirzapur-based farmer who has been cultivating dragon fruit on two acres of his land for three years.

“The demand surges during dengue fever outbreaks in the state, as people prefer it over kiwi fruit due to its health benefits,” shared Khushi Maurya, another farmer.

Unique Cultivation & Climate-Friendly

“The plant’s appearance is akin to that of a hawthorn or a cactus, with a soft stem that requires support for growth. Hence, farmers erect cemented pillar-like structures for each plant, placing a vehicle tire at the top for the plants to spread further. Recognising the investment needed, the government offers grants to farmers,” said the DHO.

Initiative under Atmanirbhar Bharat & State Government Grants

According to the Department of Horticulture, the cultivation of exotic fruits such as avocado, blueberry, strawberry, and dragon fruit is rapidly gaining traction among farmers in Uttar Pradesh, with the Mirzapur, Prayagraj, and Sonbhadra regions leading the way.

“Given the demand and profitability, even though we produce more than other leading states, Uttar Pradesh will also be included in the list,” said the former director of the horticulture department.

“The state government provides financial assistance of 30,000 per hectare to farmers who cultivate dragon fruit, in addition to the technical support offered by the state horticulture department,” noted the DHO.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, dragon fruit is predominantly grown in South Indian states and the eastern and northeastern regions of India. Currently, the total cultivated area in India spans over 3,000 hectares, which is insufficient to meet domestic demand.

As a result, a majority of dragon fruit available in the Indian market is imported from Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. With a focus on Atmanirbhar Bharat, centres are actively promoting the reduction of imports and the enhancement of India’s production capacity under the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH).

Facts about Dragon Fruit & Its Health Benefits:

According to health experts, dragon fruit offers numerous health advantages, including the ability to alleviate constipation and diabetes, enhance the immune system, and aid digestion. It is also rich in vitamins C and A, among other nutrients.

It is particularly beneficial during dengue fever outbreaks.

The Gujarat government has named the fruit “Kamalam” due to its medicinal value.

In common parlance, it is known as pitaya fruit and was originally cultivated in Mexico. However, its cultivation has gained popularity in China and Thailand. Its taste is akin to that of watermelon.

In India, Kamalam imports began in 2017, starting with a quantity of 327 tonnes, which has since surged to 9,162 tonnes in 2019.

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