High demand from traders in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka
PATHANAMTHITTA: Farmers in many parts of Pathanamthitta in central Travancore have taken to cultivation of ‘Rambutan’ (Nephelium lappaceum) to cater to the demand for the fruit from traders in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The single-seed juicy fruit with curved spines on the rind in red or yellow colour is indigenous to Malaya and Singapore regions. Rambutan was brought to this part of the State by people who had migrated to Malaya and Singapore, said Thomas P. Thomas, Professor of Botany at St. Thomas College, Kozhencherry. The fruit trees grow in the river basins of the Pampa, Manimala and the Achencoil. The Rambutan fruit contains a seed surrounded by pearl white flesh with translucent, sub-acid, sweet flavour, which is the edible part of it. He said it belonged to the Sapindaceae family of the Lychee fruit.
In view of good demand from the neighbouring States, the farmers took up cultivation of the fruit as an income generating venture. The period from June to August is the harvest season and traders from Thenkasi and Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu purchase the produce at prices ranging from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 10,000 a tree. The fruit is available in the local market at Rs. 60 to Rs. 75 a kg during the season, while in cities, it is sold at Rs. 90 to Rs. 150 a kg.
The branches of the trees are covered with nylon nets to protect the fruits from birds, especially bats. Maramon, Kozhencherry, Ayroor, Ranny, Konni and Mallappally are places that grow Rambutan.
The fruit is commonly eaten out of hand after tearing the rind open, or cutting it around the middle. The peeled fruits are also used to prepare dessert. They are canned in syrup on a limited scale, said Dr. Thomas.
Agriculture Minister Mullakara Ratnakaran had recently promised a promotional scheme for Rambutan cultivation. Farmers say the government should provide assistance by initiating market intervention through Horticorp or the Agriculture Department and check exploitation by middlemen from the neighbouring States.