Jhalawar farmers are now branding their orange produce and fetching better prices, assisted by NABARD and district authorities

Ever thought of Jhalawar while peeling off a juicy orange? You would not have, for this backward district in Rajasthan is not identified with the citrus fruit which belongs to the mandarin variety. Orange lovers may swear by Nagpur but would not raise a toast to Jhalawar oranges.

Yet, last season when crops failed in Nagpur in Maharashtra, truck loads of oranges went from Jhalawar, bordering Madhya Pradesh, and were sold as “Nagpur oranges” by big contractors and smart vendors at the Nagpur railway station.

Enthused by the success and backed by District Collector Rohit Gupta and NABARD, early this year, the citrus farmers sat with people’s representatives in the zila parishad, officials from the district’s agriculture and horticulture offices and a Jaipur-based NGO to have several rounds of discussions over preparing a road map for Jhalawar oranges. The result was JAGO or Jhalawar Agro Produce Growers Organisation.

“When productivity is so high and the oranges are as sweet (as the Nagpur variety), Jhalawar oranges, too, deserve their space under the sun. The total area under orange cultivation in Jhalawar is about 18,000 hectare out of which in about 10,000 hectare, the trees are fruit bearing and the rest are in various stages of growth,” says P.K. Jha, Assistant General Manager, NABARD, at Jhalawar. Normally, a tree starts bearing fruits from the fourth year onwards. The productive life of an orange plant is 15 to 20 years.

The search for a brand identity was not a matter of vanity alone as it provided certain advantages in pricing. “A brand ensured recognition and therefore better prices as well,” points out Mr. Jha. “The branding needed equipping the farmers with certain basic training and skill. The ignorance of the farmers here on the scientific processes — orange plucking, grading, waxing and the like — often led to poor market value and the resultant insufficient remuneration,” he observes.

“We expect the initiatives not only to make the Jhalawar brand famous but also to provide good prices for the farmers who are presently compelled to sell their produce to the traders at very low prices,” observes Jagdish Patidar, a leading orange farmer from Dungargaon in Jhalawar.

The brand was launched sometime back after a series of workshops for farmers in post harvest management.

Oranges, at 18.1 tonnes per hectare, grow better in Jhalawar than anywhere in India as the area stands third best in productivity in citrus after Karnataka and Punjab. India is the fourth largest citrus producer country in the world contributing to about 8.60 per cent of production after China (23.5 per cent), Brazil (15.5 per cent) and U.S. (10 per cent). As per the data from National Horticulture Board (2009-10), of the 8,608 metric tonnes of citrus production in India, Rajasthan accounts for about 307 metric tonne which gives it the seventh place.

When you travel next time on National Highway 12 between Jaipur and Jabalpur, which passes through Jhalawar town, you may come across kiosks selling JAGO in convenient packs of 1 kg, 2 kg and 5 kg. A JAGO grahak will not any more mistake them for Nagpur oranges!