Udaipur : While the liquidity crisis is deeply affecting industries, trade and commerce in the urban areas, Seetaphal (custard apple) growers/ pluckers in the tribal areas of Udaipur region seem to have discovered some sort of immunity against the cash crunch. At a time when sales are dipping, each tribal household at Teja ka Vas panchayat in Kotra block have earned around 10 to 15 thousand rupees on an average past few weeks by selling the ‘cash’ fruit to city merchants. Their cash inflow continues even now.
“Seetaphal is not grown actually, villagers pluck and sell it to merchants at local mandis. The fruit fetches high price up to 100 rupees in cities but the poor villagers get a meager profit due to the middlemen” informs Sarpanch Anandaram Garasiya. This time a panchayat was called to decide on the price. A consensus was derived on price fixing of 250 rupees per crate, no body would sell below or above the decided price. The merchants who come to purchase the fruit have to pay the cost in 100, 50 or smaller denominations only else the pluckers refuse to deal. “ Demonetisation is not affecting our people much. Few persons who held 500 and 1000 rupees notes got them exchanged from the nearest bank. Some people bartered Seetaphal crate in exchange for seeds and sowing crops now for the Rabi season. Those who have black money are affected of the currency ban, but tribals are contented lot” Garasiya said.
Similarly, the women folk extracting the fruit pulp in remote Nana-Devla village in Kotra of Udaipur and Pindwara in Pali districts are least bothered of the demonetization drive. Vegetable markets are flooded with the seasonal fruit these days and despite of the severe cash crisis the delicious Seetaphal which is loved by young and old alike, is finding its way into homes at a price range of 30 to 80 rupees per kilogram. “ The wild fruit needs no cultivation and grows profoundly in areas of Gogunda, Kotra in Udaipur, Kumbalgarh, Bheem in Rajsamand, several parts of Chittorgarh, Sirohi and Pratapgarh” says Sudhir Verma, an officer at the agriculture department. The fruit pulp is in much demand at the dairy and beverages industries for making Ice-cream, Rabdi and Shake while it is a sought item for the sweet makers (halwai) too, informs Dr Ram Avtar Kaushik, Professor-Horticulture at the Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology. The university developed ‘browning free pulp extraction’ machines are set at Devla and Pindwara each where women self help groups ‘Ghummar’ extract several hundred kilograms of the Seetaphal pulp.
Over 100 tribal women are engaged in the business and they extract some 700 kilograms of the fruit pulp daily. “ Traditional pulp extraction is non hygienic and less shelf life lends it a poor quality but the new technology reduces the cost of extraction as well has enhanced the quality thus getting buyers for a profitable business” Kaushik said. One kilogram packet of the pulp is sold at a price of 160 rupees while the seeds sell at a price up to 20 rs/kg. The seeds are used for making organic fertilizers. The women are unfazed by the central government’s demonetization move as they receive returns in their bank accounts.