The first-ever commercial crop of the exotic dragon fruit is being harvested at the farm of Gutty Narayana Reddy, a progressive farmer from Kuragani Palli in Narpala mandal of Anantapur district. This will be yet another prestigious addition to the fruit bowl of Andhra Pradesh with the best quality of bananas, sweet lime, papaya, mangoes, pomegranates, grapes, watermelon, musk melon and fig (anjeer), already getting exported from the district.
Not many know about the fruit due to its lack of availability in the market and have developed a resistance towards it going by its appearance. A bright pink fruit of the size of a medium papaya, dragon fruit grows on a climbing cactus called hylocereus in tropical regions. It takes 50 days for an attractive flower to convert into a fruit with soft pink outside shell and ripen for plucking. There are two variants with white juicy flesh and small black seeds or pink flesh with black seeds and a slight variation in the sweetness.
It is grown in small pockets of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab and many other States. Mr. Narayana Reddy, a sweet lime farmer, makes regular visits to Aurangabad in Maharashtra to sell his produce and happened to see this fruit in a farm in 2017 November. The following year, he brought some saplings from there and planted them in a 3-acre farm in the village in 2018. As the crop failed, he approached the horticulture scientists of Acharya NG Ranga University’s Research Centre at Rekulakunta. The advice provided by P. Deepthi and Vimala Bathineni transformed the growth of plants in his farm and today Mr. Narayana Reddy is a happy man expecting at least some returns from the huge investment he made.
“I have invested ₹14.5 lakh on the farm and expect to harvest at least 6 tonnes in the first season,” Mr. Narayana Reddy told The Hindu. He might not recover his investment in the near future but is buoyant about the fact that he was successful in producing the fruit, which mostly comes from Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and China.
Sold at ₹200 a kg in the retail market, Mr. Narayana Reddy expects to sell the fruit that has one month of shelf life, in the wholesale market at ₹100 to ₹150 a kg.