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Watermelons no longer just a summer staple

Staff Reporter
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Hybrid varieties have brought prices of the fruit down

Old and the new: The ‘ice box’ variety of watermelon are darker, more oblong and lighter than the regular seasonal variety. — Photo: K. Gopinathan
Old and the new: The ‘ice box’ variety of watermelon are darker, more oblong and lighter than the regular seasonal variety. — Photo: K. Gopinathan

Watermelons are no longer that summer fruit to savour in the sizzling heat. New hybrid varieties available across the State mean that melon lovers get their favourite fruit throughout the year.

The size of the fruit has also shrunk into what is called the “ice box” variety. These watermelons are oblong, greener in colour, and lighter to carry.

According to adviser to the Horticulture Department S.V. Hittalmani, the arrival of high-yielding hybrid varieties and encouragement to farmers through the subsidy scheme for drip irrigation and mulching (where the crop is planted on an elevated bed over a polythene sheet to prevent rotting and the spread of diseases during monsoon) have ensured steady supply of the fruit.

Karnataka produces about one lakh tonnes of melons annually over 35,000 hectares. It is grown in Chitradurga, Chamarajanagar, Mysore, Mandya, Raichur, Kolar, Haveri, Bellary and parts of Chikmagalur.

“Farmers in Kumta and Ankola in Uttara Kannada are also growing watermelons now in paddy fields after the rains. It is quite a shift for watermelon cultivation, which was earlier mostly taken up in dry river beds,” Dr. Hittalmani said.

The popular Kiran variety, he said, has a market share of 50 per cent of the hybrid variety, traces its origin to a Taiwanese company. “Many Indian companies have also released their varieties to the market,” he added.

Unhappy

However, the availability of watermelons round the year has triggered a fall in prices, vendors claim.

Javed, a watermelon vendor on Cantonment Road, who doesn’t sell the ice box variety, said: “During Ramzan, I sell a watermelon for Rs. 20 a kg, which is good, because prices sometimes drop to Rs. 10… Watermelons are available year round and for a low price in new-age vegetable and fruit markets, which is why our profits are still the same. Besides, people bargain with me, and many watermelons go bad or are wasted during transportation.”

Dr. Hittalmani however said the crop gave farmers good returns.

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