Efforts have picked up to accord official recognition to the best quality dates from Kutch. The best varieties will be registered in the name of the farmers concerned, which will enable them to earn grafting royalty from agro-companies There are around 20 lakh trees of date palm in Kutch and 17 lakh of them are indigenous, 60 per cent of which have grown from seedlings. Kutch is perhaps the only region in India which has a lot of diversity in date and the naturally grown date in Kutch has no official recognition now. For their convenience, the farmers use names like Dawoodi, Yakubi, Ghanshyam for their varieties in an informal way.
The Date Palm Research Station at Mundra (part of Dantiwada Agricultural University) and the Central Institute for Arid Horticulture at Bikaner will help the farmers recognize good quality dates in their farms and get them registered with the appropriate authority. A decision regarding this was taken at a national-level consultation meeting held in Kutch in July second week. Research scientist C M Murlidharan, who is also head of the research station at Mundra, said: “If a farmer has 1,000 plants, it is possible that 10 of them have extraordinary qualities. We will asses the quality on the parameters like sweetness in fruit, the minimum weight of a fruit being 25gram, fibre content, and rain tolerance. We will go to the farms, do testing and evaluate the variety. ”
Once a variety is registered in the name of a farmer, he will earn royalty from grafting. The registration will be done by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority, a statutory body under the ministry of agriculture.
According to scientists, dates are grown in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kutch but the quality of the fruit in Kutch is the best. In Tamil Nadu, farmers get fruits in a gap of two to three years. “There is a scarcity of good quality dates in the country and Kutch has the potential to provide this. We will evaluate and find good indigenous variety, which can be cultivated in other parts of the country,” Murlidharan added.
The dates produced in Kutch are mainly used for direct consumption. But if processed and marketed as dry dates, then the value addition will also help the farmers. Dry dates can be used in products like mouth freshener, date flavoured ice cream, in sugarfree items with natural sugar of dates, and in making of chocolates.