Thursday 28 March 2013

Where have all the oranges gone

It is known as the land of  coffee, oranges, honey and Cauvery. It is also known for its fascinating landscape comprising of hills, valleys, peaks and misty mountains.
Known as the Scotland of the South, it has always been a hit with tourists. The coffee grown here is natural and, hence, it has immense demand.
Till a few years ago, the oranges grown here were so famous that came to be called as Coorg Kittale or oranges of Coorg. The district of Coorg has attained fame as one of the best producers of honey, oranges and coffee.
Unfortunately, the oranges seem to have almost vanished from the market, leaving consumers to taste the Nagpur variety of oranges. The honey too seems to have witnessed difficult times. As far as coffee goes, good times are smiling and coffee growers are happy to have passed over a difficult phase when process crashed and coffee cultivation became unviable.
Coming back to Coorg oranges, they were planted amidst rolling coffee estates and spices gardens. The unique soil, climate and natural growth gave a distinct native touch to the Coorg orange.
Coorg thus became India’s natural ecosystem of agricultural and horticultural crops.
Orange cultivation occupied a pride of place as an intercrop in coffee plantations. Oranges also helped coffee growers by insulating them from volatile coffee prices.
The oranges grown in Coorg is called Mandarin and this is one of the four major varieties of citrus fruits grown in India. The other three are Pummelos and their hybrids, Citrons and citron lemons and rough lemons of various types. Some of the Citrus species indigenous to India include Citrus indica, latipes, megaloxycarpa,
Karma, jambhiri, aurantifolia, aurantinum, medica, sinensis,  madurensis and Citrus limonia.
Mandarin oranges.
Mandarin is the most important citrus fruit in India and it is widely cultivated as Nagpur santra, Assam Sohniamtara and Coorg orange.
The mandarin oranges of Coorg were probably introduced from Central India about 300 years ago. Coorg orange is also sometimes referred to as loose jacket orange, Khasi (in the north east), Rangtra, Kamala, Sikkim and Yemmedoddi. All these are strains of mandarin and each of them are known for being  juicy. They also have a unique taste and have a rich flavour or quality.
Coorg orange has always commanded a premium in the market because they almost always have an attractive golden tinge (colour) and they are easy to peel. They also have lesser number of seeds than other varieties of orange and they have a blend of acid and sweetness.
Unfortunately, diseases have taken a heavy toll of Coorg oranges and it almost vanished from the region. Intervenial chlorosis, mottling, die-back of young shoots, general chlorosis, unfruitfulness and pre mature death of the plants all affected oranges. Many of these symptoms are classified as Frenching, Die back and Citrus decline.
The citrus experiment station at Gonicoppal and the Chetthali Research Station (Central Horticultural Experiment Station ) took up extensive work on diseased farms and they have done commendable research on citrus die back
Coorg orange witnessed a drastic decline in acreage from about 24,000 hectares under cultivation in the 1960s to 1,400 hectares today. Each plant that once yielded a minimum of 50 kg to 60 kg of oranges now produces only about 10 kg.
Today, Coorg is on the way of regaining the glory of becoming  the orange basket of the State. Slowly but surely, the oranges of Coorg are making a comeback to the market.
Coorg accounts for a substantial majority in the cultivation and  production of oranges. The production of oranges in Karnataka in 2012-13 stood at 50000 tonnes as against 45,000 tonnes in 2011-12.
The State has reported fairly good yields from the taluks of Siddapura and Thithimani in Coorg. At present, 10,000 hectares are under orange cultivation in Karnataka.  
Once regarded as the pride of Kodagu, they did face tough times and almost became extinct. However, Mandarin-the high-yielding and fine-flavoured pulp fruit- that has been an inter-crop among coffee plantations for almost two centuries is making a recovery thanks to the effort of the Department of Horticulture. The Geographical Indications (GI) Registry granted a GI certificate for the crop and this has given the much needed boost to India’s Mandarin.

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