A few years ago, the famous Devanahalli “chakkota” (pomelo) had been nearing extinction due to rapid urbanisation in the areas around Devanahalli and, farmers' lack of interest in the crop. But in the past one-and-a-half years, the demand for pomelo has gone up and so has the number of farmers cultivating this fruit.
Pomelo is the largest citrus fruit known mainly in the western world as the principal ancestor of the grape vine. The fruit is consumed as it is or used in the preparation of jellies along with other citrus fruits.
According to Additional Director of Horticulture (Fruits) S.V. Hittalamani, awareness among the people about the medicinal value of chakkota has increased the demand for the fruit, which is mainly grown in about a dozen villages in Devanahalli taluk and parts of Chickballapur district.
A few years ago, a handful of farmers had one or two trees in their farms.
But, in view of the rising demand for the fruit and the revival measures taken up by the Department of Horticulture, several farmers have started growing pomelo on vast tracts, Mr. Hittalamani told The Hindu.
The department has setup a Pomelo Conservation Centre at Devanahalli. It is also introducing new plants in the area where genuine quality planting material is being supplied to farmers. Grafted plants from the existing healthy tree are also being tried, an official at the centre said.
However, there is no organised market for “chakkota” and, most of the produce is sold by pushcart vendors at Devanahalli town and along the adjoining National Highway 7.
Lakshmamma, a hawker, said that the increased traffic on the highway had boosted the sales in the recent months. “We sell around 1,000 fruit every day and around 3,000 a day during the weekends,” she added.
Even the demand for the pomelo peel is increasing. The peel of the unsold fruits also fetches money to vendors. The peel is used in some cosmetic and ayurvedic preparations, said Gangadhar, a hawker.
Mr. Hittalamani said the Department of Horticulture has applied for Geographical Indications (GI) tag for Devanahalli “chakkota”, which has to be issued by the Controller General of Patents.
The unique qualities of the Devanahalli soil prevent the fruit from being taken to other places in the State for cultivation. The shallow and somewhat excessively drained, “gravelly” loam to clay soil found in the region around Devanahalli provides a conducive atmosphere for the pomelo tree.