Panruti: The jackfruit paradise

Panruti is home to the largest area under the fruit in the State; It is also supposedly the only place in India where jackfruit is grown as a monocrop

Updated - June 24, 2022 12:50 pm IST

Published - June 16, 2022 02:59 pm IST

S. Ramasamy, 71, a farmer of Maligampattu near Panruti, with his heritage jackfruit tree.

S. Ramasamy, 71, a farmer of Maligampattu near Panruti, with his heritage jackfruit tree. | Photo Credit: S.S. KUMAR

The smell of jackfruit wafts in the air as one drives through Panruti in Cuddalore district of north Tamil Nadu. The fruit takes the pride of place at every market and roadside stall in Panruti, with its heady aroma wafting from every home.

Panruti is home to the largest area under jackfruit cultivation in the State; the fruit is grown on over 800 hectares in the district. It is also supposedly the only place in India where jackfruit is grown as a monocrop (a single crop throughout the year). Each tree yields around 150-250 fruits per season. Panruti has an annual production capacity of 45,000 metric tonnes to 50,000 metric tonnes.

The State fruit of Tamil Nadu has an age-old connection with Panruti. According to a report in the Gazetteer of South Arcot published in 1906, the high red land of Panruti taluk traded in the cashew and jackfruit enormously and improved the region’s economic value.

Why it’s special?

“The carpals of the jackfruit are thick, long and extra sweet. The Panruti jackfruits have cream-coloured bulbous pulps, with thick flesh and fibrous interior. The pulp remains fresh and maintains a consistency in its texture for long, compared with the fruits from other areas where the flesh remains thin and starts deteriorating,” says P. Sanjai Gandhi, Government Advocate (Madras High Court), who has filed an application, on behalf of the Maligampattu Farmer Producer Association, for the Geographic Indication (GI) tag for the Panruti variety of jackfruit.

The Panruti jackfruits are also known for their huge size, with each fruit weighing 7 kg to 40 kg. The Palur jack (PLR- 1), a high-yielding variety, was developed at Panikkankuppam near Panruti by the Vegetable Research Station of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in 1992.

The variety is of medium height and suitable for high-density planting. The advantage is it produces fruits not only during the bearing season (March-June) but also during the off-season (October-December). It yields 80 fruits per tree, weighing an average of 12 kg, Mr. Gandhi adds.

According to an official of the Horticulture Department, “The Panruti variety has a sweet and distinct taste, thanks to the agro-climatic conditions here. The crop is rain-fed and the soil in and around Panruti is ideally suited for jackfruit cultivation. Over 95% of the harvested fruit is for consumption and there is no wastage.”

Officials point out, “Panruti alone accounts for about 577 hectares (under cultivation), followed by Kammapuram with 111 hectares and Kattumannarkovil and Kurunjipadi with 50.125 and 46.675 hectares respectively.”

However, no official statistics are available of trees grown in the backyards of houses and as inter-crops in the district. If they are to be added, the total area under cultivation may increase by another 100 hectares.

The harvested fruits have a huge demand in markets in Chennai, Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru and overseas.

Heritage tree

Maligampattu, a few km from Panruti, is dotted with jackfruit plantations. It is home to one of the oldest jackfruit trees in the district.

S. Ramasamy, 71, president of the Maligampattu Farmer Producer Organisation, is the fourth-generation owner of the tree with a massive canopy.

“This heritage tree is more than 200 years old. It is special not because of its age but also because of the taste of its fruits. The tree has the ability to bear a good number of quality fruits. The tree yields 150-200 fruits a year, weighing 3 kg to 12 kg,” he says.

Though the fruit is produced in large quantities in the State, making value-added products, as in Kerala, remains a challenge.

Mr. Ramasamy points out that farmers are not too keen on value- added products since they are dependent on the commission mandis to sell their produce. “Only a few in Panruti make value-added products like jackfruit powder. Though the fruit is available throughout the year, the demand for such products is poor. GI tagging of the fruit would ensure good returns to farmers and spread awareness of the value-added products,” he adds.

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