Head to Gholvad in Dahanu taluka this weekend to get a taste of a fruit that, despite its high nutritional value, has almost disappeared from the local market.Dahanu, located around 150km from Mumbai, hosts its annual Chikoo festival on February 6 and 7. Recent trends show that despite bumper crop, the fruit has been disappearing from the retail market, mainly due to its highly perishable nature.
Farmers say most of produce goes to the APMC market in Navi Mumbai, where it is picked up in bulk by juice and ice-cream manufacturers. Since the festival began in 2013, chikoo processing ventures are on the rise.
“Due to the highly perishable nature of chikoo, retail vendors are reluctant to stock the fruit. And super markets charge exorbitant prices,“ said Priyanka Save, secretary , Chikoo Festival Foundation.
The two-day festival at the Bordi beach in Gholvad, Dahanu, sees people not just relishing the fruit but also taking away its byproducts.After seeing the love for the fruit during the festival, farmers are keen on seeing chikoo being sold in local markets along with mangoes and apples.
Farmers in the GholvadDahanu belt have started ripening chambers for the fruit. Ethylene gas is released into the chambers, which evens ripening process of the fruit.
“Once the retailer is confident that the fruit will stay with him longer, there wont be resistance to sell. This way , we expect to see more chikoos in retail markets,“ said Save.
The belt has been blessed with a bumper crop since 2011, making it a round-theyear fruit.
The yield had declined since the late 1990s post the attack of a seed borer.
Between November and February , around 200 tonnes of chikoo is produced daily .The figure goes down to around 180 tonnes a day between March and June. By July to October, the produce drops to 60 tonnes a day.
“The fruit in each of the season is worth cherishing.The same plant bears fruits in different shapes right from elongated to that of a tennis ball in a year,“ said Nagesh Pai, a mechanical engineer engaged in chikoo winery .
Former director of APMC fruit market, Sanjay Pansare, admits that chikoo’s presence in local markets is diminishing due to its perishable nature. He says that while the demand for the fruit is less in the city, chikoo is in great demand in cities like Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur.
The festival has become a platform to drive home the benefits of the fruit. A chikoo marathon to a chikoo safari are the highlights of the festival.
With over 130 stalls and a variety of chikoo fruits and byproducts, the event is expected to attract around 25,000 people.