| Fruitful bounty |
Shillong, June 30: Jackfruit may not look wonderful but people in the Garo hills region perhaps are not realising the economic value of this organic fruit.
Official estimates indicate that crores of rupees are annually wasted by the people as they keep the fruits rotting in the open instead of utilising the economic viability.
Lack of awareness about the value of the wonder fruit is perhaps the biggest reason why a few hundred rupees cannot be converted into a few crores.
The Meghalaya Basin Development Authority, in collaboration with the East Garo Hills District Basin Unit, is conducting a two-day Jackfruit Festival on July 11 and 12 under Meghalaya Integrated Basin Development and Livelihood Promotion Programme.
The festival, the first in the state, will be held in Williamnagar, the district headquarters of East Garo Hills.
Jackfruit is popularly known as a poor man’s fruit in the eastern and southern parts of the country.
It is a multi-purpose species providing food, timber, fuel, fodder, medicinal and industrial products. The wonder fruit’s nutritional level is also something to look at, as it is rich in vitamins A, B and C, besides potassium, calcium, iron, proteins and carbohydrates.
As it has high level of carbohydrates, a jackfruit supplements other staple foods in times of scarcity in some regions.
A major chunk of jackfruits in Garo hills was wasted in the absence of scientific processing and preservation, East Garo Hills deputy commissioner Vijay Kumar Mantri said. He said according to a detailed project report, an attempt was made to calculate the value of the rotting fruits.
“The figures are startling. In East Garo Hills, it is coming to more than Rs 118 crore a season while in the entire Garo hills the figure is more than Rs 434 crore per season,” Mantri added.
“Jackfruit, the biggest organic fruit, is one of our highly-neglected food resources. It is a paradox that the Garo hills wastes 80 per cent of the fruits though people suffer from lack of proper nutrition and income. This is the jackfruit season. As usual, this year too, huge number of jackfruits will be rotting under the trees because of lack of intervention,” Mantri said.
East Garo Hills falls under a sub-tropical climatic zone and hence, there is abundant number of jackfruit trees in the district.
Jackfruit is an underutilised fruit crop in the district and is locally consumed at household level.
The fruits are rotting under the trees because of negligence and non-availability of value additions, including awareness, among the rural communities.
Against this backdrop, Mantri said the festival at Williamnagar would aim to create largescale awareness about the utility of the fruit as well as explore and nurture livelihood opportunities.
The main features of the festival include setting up of exhibition stalls, workshops, cooking competitions of jackfruit products, a jackfruit eating competition and a seminar.
These competitions are open to all citizens of Meghalaya. “We expect a lot of enthusiastic participation from across the Garo hills for the biggest jackfruit competition. This can also become a platform for setting world records, if possible,” Mantri said.
The Guinness World Records for the biggest jackfruit stands in the name of a Hawaiian farmer. It weighed 34.4 kg.
“The Garo hills has the potential to beat this record if awareness is made through these kinds of festivals,” the deputy commissioner added.