India seems to be shifting its preference for exotic fruits this summer, particularly in the state of Kerala

There is a new entrant of the mango family that is becoming popular in India. It is called the Maprang (the golden yellow fruit) also called Marian plum. A less demanding fruit that does not need to be peeled, has hit the markets of Kerala.

The fruit encompasses a range of taste — from sourness to sweetness — and comes with a hint of pine. This Southeast Asian plant, grown primarily in Thailand and Indonesia, is seen sprouting in a patch in Kanjirapally in Kerala.  Farmers are already cultivating some 32 varieties, including pulasan, santol and abiu.

This seems to be a summer of unusual fruits — either farmed in or imported to India — making their way to supermarkets and salad platters. Kerala’s agriculture was dominated by cash crops. The transition to fruit farming is slowly happening now. The state has the potential to become the tropical fruit basket of the country.

Of all states, Kerala is one where farmers are quick to latch on to what they believe would be the next big lucrative produce. Kerala  farmers have already tried growing cocoa and vanilla and now rambutan is piled high along its highways.

It is not just Kerala that is betting on unusual berries. The almost century-old Soans Farm near Mangaluru in Karnataka grows rambutan, mangosteen, egg fruit, breadfruit, rose apple, star apple and miracle fruit. While much of the produce is sold locally, a tie-up with Gurgaon-based online platform Farmer Uncle helps it to sell fruits to customers in Delhi-NCR. Some farms have shown a great interest in botanical species and grow over 1,000 different species.

The growing trend is towards tropical fruits for their health benefits. Rambutan, loquat, durian, snake fruit, mangosteen and three variants of dragon fruit (red, white and yellow) are finding favour with the health conscious young urban population . Guanabana, Cherimoya, Horned Cucumber, Prickly Pear and Quince are also in vogue.

Rambutan imported from Thailand is flying off the shelves at Rs 800 a kilo. Foodhall, which has outlets in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, has witnessed a consistent growth in demand for such rare and exotic fruits, selling about 2 tonnes a month.

Different kinds of berries come from Europe. These fruits are high in antioxidants, and consumers in metros are willing to pay a premium for them.

Uttara is a correspondent with Indoasiancommodities. You can write to her on uttara.malhotra@indoasiancommodities.in.

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