The beautiful hilly North eastern state of Tripura is said to derive its name from the Goddess of the State, Shree Tripurasundari. Though Tripura was famous in the late 1800s to early 1900s for its aromatic tea, it has now gained universal recognition for its wide range of exotic subtropical and tropical fruits and vegetables.
The hilly terrain, tropical climatic conditions with an annual rainfall of about 2500 mm, fertile soil and abundant moisture is ideal for rainfed horticulture. Tripura is heavily invested in organic farming availing the even distribution of rainfall and non-application of pesticides or fertilizers. The rich soil on the hillocks is conducive for the cultivation of fruit crops like pineapple, jackfruit, orange, litchi, cashew nut, coconut, lime and lemon that are grown in abundance here.
The famed Tripura Queen Pineapple which is also the state fruit is a much revered crop of the farmers. There is a local saying that, “The pineapple would never betray them” – meaning that even if other crops fail owing to unfavourable circumstances, the pineapple will stand tall as a viable crop for survival providing substantial income each year. This strong faith of the Darlongs, a subtribe of Mizos residing in the Nalkata area of Kumarghat Block of North Tripura district is contributory in ensuring bumper pineapple crops in their settlement.
Farmers of Tripura have pioneered the art of cultivation of pineapple. Tripura is one of the largest pineapple growing states in India with commercial scale plantations spread across the state. Tripura grows an estimated 1.28 metric tonnes of pineapple each year across 8,800 hectares of land. The productivity of pineapple per hectare is 18.73 tons which is higher than the national average of 15.80 tons! Dhalai district holds the record for the highest yield per hectare production in the state with a whopping 21.88 tons. The records say that more than 4,000 growers are actively involved in the cultivation of the fruit in Tripura.
The renowned Queen Pineapple is spiny, golden yellow in colour, with a distinctive aroma, has high juice content, tanginess and sweetness that sets it apart from the pineapples grown in the other Northeast states.
The fruits are harvested when the eyes turn yellow which is during mid-May to mid-July. The average weight of the fruit varies from 600 grams to 800 grams and is normally priced at Rs 7 – 8 for the wholesalers. Pineapples that are harvested at half ripe stage can be kept fresh for 1 – 3 weeks at 12 °C to 13 °C.
Different parts of the pineapple plant are used as medicine to treat various diseases. The root and fruit are either eaten or applied topically as an anti-inflammatory and as a proteolytic agent. It is used as an antiparasitic. A root decoction is used to treat diarrhoea.
Queen pineapple is endowed with organoleptic properties. This pineapple is not suitable for slices because of its size and deep eyes. However, this pineapple is canned for future use to make juice. The waste parts after canning are used to make alcohol, vinegar and food for livestock.
Tripura represents the ideal model of harmonious balance between the needs of human livelihood and natural heritage. The Government is now working extensively to develop a scientific method of cultivating a variety of larger and long-lasting pineapples. The intention is to increase the production and sizes of the pineapple to guarantee more income for the farmers as the traditional method limits the produce and size.
The increasing interest in the Queen Pineapple has led to higher export demands from Dubai, Doha, Bangladesh and other countries. This organic fruit has immense potential and processing factories to help the growers is the need of the hour.
This delicious fruit crop of Tripura received the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2015.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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