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Indian pomegranate goes places

The tangy pomegranate is set to go to even more places as exports grow over six-fold with increasing awareness.

india Updated: Apr 07, 2006 11:56 IST

It's healthy, medicinal and also delicious. Now the tangy pomegranate is set to go to even more places as exports grow over six-fold with increasing awareness about its various properties in Europe and the Middle East.

Though Indian mangoes have always ruled the roost in the fruit export bazaar, the pomegranate is also catching up to chalk 100 percent export growth annually for the last three years - from Rs 40 million in 2001-02 to cross Rs.250 million (about $6 million) in the last fiscal.

The state-run Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) will hold special pomegranate roadshows - along with mangoes - in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Germany, Britain and Holland besides China and Hong Kong.

"We are planning to promote pomegranate as the second fruit along with mango. As it is available round the year for about 10 months, we are keen to exploit its export potential both a fresh fruit and as processed product," an APEDA official said.

"From a level of Rs 40 million in 2001-02, pomegranate exports have now crossed Rs 250 million," the senior official said.

Widely cultivated throughout India, annual production is around 500,000 tonnes, of which 400,000 tonnes is produced in Maharashtra alone, mainly in Baramati, Aurangabad, Latur, Kohlapur and Nashik regions.

However, increasing demand both within the country and overseas has meant new pomegranate plantations coming up in other regions of Maharashtra as well as in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

The shrub-like pomegranate trees start bearing fruit within four years. In India, several varieties are available, but demand overseas is more for the blood red or saffron coloured Bhagwa variety.

According to the Maharashtra Pomegranate Growers Research Association, not only does the Bhagwa variety bear more fruit, it has also been found to be less susceptible to fruit spots and has a longer shelf life.

Being more juicy and large, it fetches two to three times the price of other varieties and is greatly in demand in European, Middle East and Southeast Asian markets.

The indigenous Ganesh and the smaller, colourful Kandhari are some of the other varieties in demand overseas.

Everything from the pomegranate tree -- from the fruit, flowers, leaves, bark and roots -- is used. Its medicinal purposes range from bettering stomach problems to improving blood circulation with daily intake.

In the dried form, the pomegranate pod is used as a condiment, appetiser and digestive.

But the demand in the export market is more for pomegranate juice, which is either blended with other fruit juices or packaged on its own.

"As pomegranate has a long shelf life and is available throughout the year, APEDA together with Maharashtra government is setting up an integrated packhouse in Baramati, which is part of the agri-export zone for promotion of pomegranate," a senior official said.

The packhouse would have two cold storage chambers of 30 tonnes each and two pre-cooling chambers of five tonnes each. It would also have handling and packaging facilities.

Also under construction is a processing unit being set up by private investors Sharad Agro.

APEDA is keen to promote more processing units given that pomegranate is a perennial crop and would ensure good returns for investors.

Currently there are only small processing units in the country utilising pomegranate for making medicinal products and juices.

That all could change very soon.

First Published: Apr 07, 2006 11:56 IST