Home India News Persimmon fruit harvest quite a treat in Himachal

Persimmon fruit harvest quite a treat in Himachal

By Vishal Gulati, IANS,

Shimla : Himachal Pradesh is expecting a bumper harvest of the exotic persimmon with the trees literally drooping under the weight of the luscious fruit even though unfavourable weather through the season hit other crops like apple and cherry.

Locally called “Japani Phal”, or the Japanese fruit, persimmon looks like a bright red-orange tomato, and is full of subtle fragrances and rich in sugar, as well as vitamins A, B and C.

“We are getting a bumper persimmon crop this time despite hostile climatic conditions in the flowering and fruit-ripening seasons. Field reports indicate a good yield,” joint director (horticulture) R.S. Thakur told IANS.

He said unfavourable weather had failed to affect persimmon production.

“Less chill in the last winter and deficient rain in the monsoon have little impact on the yield of persimmon, whereas the production of apple and other stone fruits has been severely hit in the state,” he said.

The temperate zones of Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Chamba and Solan districts are ideal for persimmon cultivation. As per horticulture department estimates, at least 10,000 farmers grow the fruit over 397 hectares.

Said Anil Mahajan, a farmer from Kullu district: “Farmers are opting for persimmon as apple production has declined due to climate change. Moreover, persimmon bears regular, rich crop and requires less management.”

According to him, the abundant persimmon crop this time helped compensate for the losses incurred by apple growers.

“One kilogram of persimmon sells at about Rs.20 in the wholesale market. On an average, a fully-grown tree yields up to 200 kilograms of the fruit in a year,” Mahajan said.

In 2008-09, the production of persimmon in Himachal Pradesh was 224 tonnes.

Fruit commission agent Tek Chand Gupta said persimmon is selling between Rs.50 and Rs.60 per kilogram in the retail market. “Its price is quite high in Chandigarh and Delhi where retailers and fruit vendors often sell it as imports from China and Japan.”

Persimmon starts arriving in the market at the beginning of October and is available till mid-November.

“Persimmon is available when other citrus fruits are not common in the market. So it’s much sought after. Secondly, its resemblance with tomatoes attracts buyers. Most of the high-quality fruit is sold in Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi and Chandigarh,” Gupta said.

In India, the fruit was introduced by European settlers in early 20th century.

Ramesh Chaudhary, grower from Narkanda in Shimla district, said the fruit is also fast catching up as an alternative commercial crop.

“We planted persimmon in the early 1940s along with apples. This year, we got a bumper yield,” he said.

Horticulture joint director Thakur said two varieties are generally cultivated in Himachal Pradesh.

“The heart-shaped astringent variety, Hachiya, is dominant in the state. It is deep orange-red with glossy skin. The flesh is deep yellow and sweet when ripe. Other varieties such as Fuyu and Hyakuma are also grown. They are generally eaten when ripe,” he said.

According to Thakur, the demand for persimmon is quite high in fruit processing units due to its succulence.

The fruit is also grown in Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Tamil Nadu.

Approximately 200,000 hectares in Himachal Pradesh — mainly in Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Solan, Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba districts — are under horticulture cultivation.

Besides persimmon, apples, pears, peaches, cherries, apricots, kiwi, strawberry, olive, almonds and plums are the major commercial fruit crops of the state, which boasts of a horticultural economy of around Rs.2,000 crore a year.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])