Traditionally, figs are grown in Purandar taluk of the Pune district, but the fruit was always considered a “roadside” fruit as it was sold by farmers along the highways. Till a few years ago, nobody thought of creating an international market for the GI-tagged fig because of its short shelf life. But a group of 13 farmers turned into researchers, innovators, and market experts to conduct experiments to increase the shelf life and quality of fruit, innovated with packing, and created a space for the fruit in the world market.

Last week, fresh figs from Purandar were exported to Germany. The Purandar Highlands Farmers Producers Company (PHFPC) will start sending the commercial consignment from January 2023.

PHFPC is also a recognised start-up by the Union government. In India, figs are grown in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. In Maharashtra, figs are cultivated on around 400 hectares to produce about 4300 MT of fresh figs. About 92 per cent of these figs are produced in Pune, especially Purandar.

Rohan Ursal, chairman of the PGFPC, told BusinessLine that even though the FPC was registered in 2021, a group of farmers had started working on fig and custard apple about five years ago. “We started from the basics as there was no research about increasing the shelf life of the fig, its packaging to preserve for a long time and marketing. We put heads together to experiment with pre-harvest, post-harvest, cooling, and packaging in an innovative way. We found out that with two-degree pre-cooling and saving fruit at 2-8 degree we can increase the shelf life of the fruit to 10-15 days,” he said. 

Test packs and trials

For the past two months, the FPC in collaboration with StePack (Packaging Solutions Expert) in Israel, Coldman Logistics and Warehouse and Jayjinendra Cold Store, conducted packhouse tests with Bayer Crop Science’s food chain division. After preparing and following specific protocols in packhouse tests, the figs were found to be in perfect condition for 15 days. This successful packhouse test gave the grower confidence that the Purandar figs could now reach any market in the world and accordingly decided to send the test consignment to Germany.

Farmers have developed a brand of figs called ‘Super Fig’ and the test shipment sent to Pilz Schindler GmbH, located in Hamburg, Germany was successful. Figs have reached the market in excellent condition and were appreciated by the buyers.

By establishing the standard practices for the fig, farmers expect that they would expand the fig market in Europe. 

Sunil Pawar, Director of Marketing and Managing Director, Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board, said the Board provided the guidance and financial assistance at all critical stages of the export protocol as this delicate fruit was to be exported to the European market for the first time in its history.

 

social-fb COMMENT NOW