Four of the agricultural products in the southern part of Tamil Nadu were recently given the Geographical Indication (GI) recognising their uniqueness. This identification of the products in the global market through GI tag has made it essential to safeguard and increase the uniqueness and its production respectively from the climatic challenges.
The Cumbum paneer grapes, Authoor betel leaves, Sholavandhan betel leaves and Kanniyakumari matti banana, which were granted GI this year, gained prominence for their uniqueness and quality.
At the same time, the farmers fear a possible decline in production due to various factors linked to climate change.
“The recognition is promising as it would increase our demand and importance in the global market but at the same time, unpredictable climatic conditions are proving to be a challenge to our produce,” said, a banana farmer S.B. Perumal of Kanniyakumari.
He said that because of the identification for the matti bananas, many farmers who were reluctant earlier to grow on a large scale have gained confidence that they could market their produce owing to their recognition across the country.
“The challenges faced in production have drastically changed compared to the past. Earlier, we feared only if it rained or did not, but now we fear off-season rains because when the plant is in the growing stage, it will uproot the whole plant,” he added.
A grape farmer R.P.P. Nanthakumar of Cumbum echoed the same feeling that the grape varieties were very sensitive to water and if the soil tends to hold back water, it would rot the plant.
“As we have secured the GI tag, we could even export the fruits to foreign countries. The biggest challenge in doing so is to preserve them for the whole time,” he added.
“What an unseasonal rain would do is reduce the quality of the fruit while retaining the appearance of the fruit,“ said Mr. Nanthakumar. Such challenges could downgrade our product in the global market, he added.
E. Somasundaram, Director, Agri Business, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, told The Hindu that there needs a change in the agrochemical usage of the farmers on the soil.
“Subjecting the soil repeatedly to chemicals could make it lose its holding capacity and other nutrients, which will, in turn, reflect in the plant,” he added.
Finding solutions to make the crops climate resilient, particularly the GI tagged varieties, is challenging as the solution should not affect the intrinsic characteristics of the plant like odour, colour, and taste among others which the GI had recognised, he added.
In addition to this, handling of the soil would also matter as the GI process had recognised and studied the properties of the soil before granting the GI tag, said Dr. Somasundaram.
“As the first stage in combating climate change, we are studying the effectiveness of decreasing the number of harvests per year to increase the quality and to give the soil enough time to rejuvenate,” he added.
Further studies to inculcate customised techniques suitable to the climate, soil, crop, and region among others are under way which would possibly help handle the climatic situation better, he said.