The exotic Kachai Champra or Kachai lemon commonly known as the ‘pride of Manipur’ is found only in the remote village of Kachai in the Ukhrul district in the north-eastern state of Manipur. This village is the highest producer of lemon in Manipur and one may wonder, what makes this lemon so striking?
Well, Kachai has the typical subtropical climate characterized with extreme humidity in the day and very cool nights. The temperature ranges from 19° to 21°C and there is heavy fog in the month of December and January that does not clear till 10 a.m. in the morning. It is this unique feature that helps the lemon orchards receive water and maintain the much-needed moisture for a good produce. Though this region receives rainfall in the range of 1,300 to 1,500 mm annually, water is undoubtedly the scarcest commodity in the winter months in this hilly region and this thick fog is the elixir for the lemon trees.
It is definitely the weather conditions, organic farming techniques and excellent soil health that makes Kachai lemon so distinguished from other varieties of lemon. Kachai lemon has a very high ascorbic acid percentage of 51 (highest for far in the citrus varieties) as against other varieties that are at 35-40. The juice content is also extremely high at 36-56 ml per fruit. This indigenous fruit-bearing lemon tree presents a very pretty picture of a flowering tree during the harvesting time.
All the farmers in Ukhrul district are into lemon farming with it being their main source of income. The Ukhrul district alone produces more than 570 metric tonnes of lemon each year in about 840 hectares of land. This unique organically grown lemon was awarded the prestigious Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2014.
Kachai Lemon Festival is celebrated every year in the second week of January with the intention to popularize Kachai lemon and create a premium value and space in the domestic and export market and generate extra income for the farmers. This festival also provides the desired interaction with scientists, experts and potential buyers.
The superb quality and taste of the Kachai lemon has proved to be its main strengths and neighbouring villages of Senapati, Ukhrul and Kachai are also promoting lemon plantations zealously.
With more people interested in organic farming and venturing into commercial lemon orchards planting about 500-3000 lemon trees, the production of Kachai lemon will be exponentially higher as against the previous produce generated from 30-60 lemon trees grown in their backyards.
Kachai lemon is a high yielding landrace with an equally high economic value. This delicious fruit is consumed as fresh fruit and also used for making juice, squash and pickles. Citrus fruits are high in Vitamin C and good sources of Vitamin A and folic acid and rich in fibre. The fresh Kachai lemon can be stored for several days at room temperature or for several weeks in the refrigerator. Even, the fresh juice can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Now, many other value added products are prepared from Kachai lemon like powder using commercially viable technology. The rind and juice is used to extract pectin and ascorbic acid respectively which has many medicinal and curative properties.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)