In its efforts to rejuvenate sugarcane farming in the Periyar river basin and restore the prominence of Alangadan Jaggery, the Ernakulam Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) of ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has established a jaggery production unit in Alangad.

This is in continuation of the demonstration of sugarcane farming in the locality. The equipment for the unit are purchased with funding from the Agricultural Technology Application Research Institute (ATARI), Bengaluru, and the building is sponsored by the Alangad Co-operative Bank. The whole project is being implemented in collaboration with the Alangad Grama Panchayath.

Sugarcane has deep-rooted historical significance in Kerala, particularly in the Periyar river basin, where it has been traditionally cultivated for the production of jaggery, a cherished sweetener. Jaggery, known as Sharkara in Malayalam, not only holds cultural importance but is also recognised for its mineral-rich and antioxidant properties, offering numerous health benefits. It plays a vital role in Kerala’s cuisine, used in various dishes and religious ceremonies, symbolizing auspiciousness and prosperity.

Despite this rich history, sugarcane farming in Kerala has faced challenges in recent decades, including low profitability, high labour costs and competition from cheaper alternatives. Consequently, the quality and quantity of jaggery, especially the renowned Alangadan Sharkara, have witnessed a decline.

KVK planted the CO 86032 variety, a high-yielding and disease-resistant sugarcane strain released by ICAR-Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Coimbatore, specifically for jaggery production.

Project’s objective

The primary goal of this demonstration is to produce chemical-free, high-quality jaggery and establish a branded marketing channel for Alangadan Sharkara, potentially earning a Geographical Indication (GI) tag in the future. The project has garnered support and guidance from Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research, Lucknow, which is providing technological expertise for the jaggery unit. Currently, more than 11 farmers are engaged in sugarcane farming in the region in collaboration with the KVK.

Ernakulam KVK envisions that this sugarcane farming demonstration coupled with an operational jaggery unit and branded marketing, will motivate local farmers to reengage in sugarcane cultivation. Furthermore, the initiative aims to create opportunities for value addition and income generation by exploring other sugarcane-derived products such as bottled juice, liquid jaggery, and vacuum-evaporated jaggery to cater to evolving consumer preferences.