An increasing number of farmers are turning to dragon fruit cultivation along with their traditional crops in various districts of Uttar Pradesh. This exotic fruit, known for its striking red-purple appearance and interesting name, is attracting the attention of Indian growers.
It is not only its aesthetics but also its economic potential and numerous health benefits that are driving high demand.
Changes in Dragon Fruit Cultivation
Traditionally, dragon fruit was cultivated mainly in the southern and eastern states of India. However, a significant change is underway, with farmers in several districts of Uttar Pradesh now joining the dragon fruit craze. What is attracting them are promising returns on investment and government subsidies.
Dragon Fruit Farming in Uttar Pradesh
According to the horticulture department, more than 300 farmers in Mirzapur and Varanasi regions have dedicated around 125 acres of land to dragon fruit cultivation. Similarly, in Sonbhadra, 60-70 farmers have committed 45 acres of land for this exotic fruit.
Dragonfruit provides a rapid return on investment, with economic production possible within the first year of planting. Full production is achieved in 3-4 years, and once established, a dragon fruit plant can bear fruit for 20-25 years, with an average yield of 10 tons per acre after two years.
“From the third year onwards, one can make a profit of around Rs 10 lakh per acre, with each fruit selling between ₹50 and ₹60, and this,” explains Meeva Ram, district horticulture officer, Mirzapur. After that the price doubles. Retail.”
High demand out-piece supply
The demand for dragon fruit is so high that farmers are struggling to keep up, and even local markets cannot keep up with export demands. This increase in demand is particularly evident during dengue fever outbreaks, as people prefer dragon fruit over kiwi for its health benefits.
Unique Cultivation Methods
Dragon fruit plants have a unique shape, resembling a hawthorn or cacti, with tender stems that need support to grow. Farmers in the area build cement pillar-like structures for each plant and place a car tire on top to spread the plants further. Recognizing the investment required, the government offers grants to farmers to facilitate this innovative farming method.
Government initiatives and grants
The Uttar Pradesh government supports dragon fruit cultivation under the Atmanir Bhar Bharat initiative and provides financial assistance of Rs 30,000 per hectare to dragon fruit farmers. Additionally, the State Horticulture Department provides technical assistance.
Rapid development of exotic fruit cultivation
Dragon fruit is not the only exotic fruit among farmers in Uttar Pradesh. Avocados, blueberries, strawberries, and dragon fruit are all becoming popular choices, with Mirzapur, Prayagraj, and Sonbhadra regions leading the way.
Reducing imports and increasing domestic production
Currently, a significant portion of the dragon fruit available in the Indian market is imported from countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. However, efforts are being made to reduce imports and increase India’s productivity under the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), focusing on self-reliance (Atmanir Bhar Bharat).
Health Benefits of Dragon Fruit
Health experts highlight the various health benefits of dragon fruit, including its ability to relieve constipation and diabetes, boost the immune system and aid in digestion. This fruit is rich in vitamin C and A among other essential nutrients. In particular, it is especially beneficial during dengue fever outbreaks.
Dragon fruit cultivation in Uttar Pradesh is experiencing a significant increase in popularity among farmers. Its rapid economic returns, government support, and high demand are driving this shift away from conventional crops. With its numerous health benefits and unique cultivation methods, dragon fruit has become a promising option for agricultural diversification in northern India, marking a considerable shift from its historical development in the southern and eastern regions of the country.
First Published: 25 Sep 2023, 14:58 IST