Call for large-scale production of value-added products
Anyone who travels the length and breadth of rural Kerala would be shocked to see the sheer number of jackfruits, which were once considered a major source of food to keep starvation at bay, being wasted on countless jackfruit trees in private and public lands.
If the government agencies including the agricultural universities or the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK) were to develop some effective technology to process the fruit in large-scale and make value-added products from it, that would have made a big difference to rural economy of the State, say observers.
Different products including jackfruit chips, mixture and squash are available in the market, though they don’t make for even 10 per cent of the total annual production of the fruit. “If the authorities were to make a sincere effort by promoting new entrepreneurs equipped with modern technologies, jackfruit would hold key not only to the development of rural economy but also to the food security of the State,” says M.A. Johnson, environmental activist.
Around 75 per cent of the fruit produced in the State was going without being properly utilised, says K.B. Sheela, professor and head of Processing Technology Department at the Kerala Agricultural University, Vellanikkara. The difficulty in the primary processing of the fruit is the major challenge says Dr. Sheela, who vouches for the high nutrient value of the fruit, which is one of the rare ‘completely organic’ fruits available in the State today.
The university has recently developed a technology to make a product called ‘osmo-dehydrated jackfruit’, which can be sold to prospective business firms interested in marketing it. Around 20 other products like jelly, squash and halwa are also being now made in different parts of the State using different technologies, says Dr. Sheela. The seed of the fruit is also said to be protein rich, which can be utilised for cattle feed. “A processing technology for a product of bulk use of jackfruit is however yet to emerge,” she says.
The KVKs also make minor efforts to produce and market traditional products from jackfruit. “But none of them is sufficient to make a major difference to the fate of the fruit,” says B. Sasikumar, scientist in-charge of the KVK, Kozhikode.
“Though we make only a few products using a small portion of the fruits from KVK farms, there is great demand for them,” says Dr. Sasikumar.
Two years ago the State had even witnessed the formation of a Jackfruit Promotion Council, following a jackfruit festival in Thiruvananthapuram. “However, nothing significant came out of either,” says Mr. Johnson, who wants the attention of the Agriculture Ministry into the issue.
However, experiments are on among different collectives of farmers in the State in preparing diverse varieties of food items from the fruit, which is the largest tree-born fruit in the world. Niravu Vengeri, a progressive residential forum here, had showcased as many as 101 varieties of dishes from payasam to biriyani using jackfruit in a State-level jackfruit festival organised in the city three years ago. “All of them were prepared by our member residents using fruits from their own backyards,” says Babu Parambath of Niravu.