KINNOW, a hybrid between King mandarin (Citrus nobilis) and Willowleaf mandarin (Citrus deliciosa) was developed in 1915 by HB Frost at Citrus Research Centre, University of California, Riverside, US. It was brought to the Regional Research Station, Abohar, by JC Bakshi in 1954. After evaluating its performance, it was recommended for commercial cultivation in Punjab. It went on to revolutionise the citrus industry of the state. Punjab is India’s leading kinnow-growing state; other states involved in its cultivation include Rajasthan, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
The agro-ecological conditions of Punjab are well suited for this premium fruit. However, in spite of kinnow’s high adaptability and economic returns, it has been noticed that whenever there is a bumper crop, the prices crash and farmers have no option but to sell their produce at throwaway rates. During the peak harvesting season, it is sold by the majority of the farmers on the roadside, resulting in post-harvest wastage as well as loss of quality. Keeping in view its nutritional value as well as attractive colour and flavour, it is in high demand not only in Indian markets — Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai — but also in Sri Lanka, Thailand and West Asian countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Keeping in view the interests of farmers, the Punjab Government has established citrus estates in Fazilka, Muktsar and Hoshiarpur districts for increasing the production and improving the marketing of kinnow. These estates are fully equipped with post-harvest infrastructure such as packhouses and automatic mechanical grading and waxing machines. Besides, Punjab Agro Industrial Corporation has established two state-of-the-art processing units for kinnow juice at Abohar and Hoshiarpur. These estates are assisting the farmers in grading and waxing of the fruits for getting better prices in distant markets.
- Kinnow is grown mainly in Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir. The climatic conditions during the winter spur production in these states/UTs. Punjab is India’s leading producer of kinnow. Fazilka district accounts for more than half of the state’s production. Punjab is second in the country in the production of mandarin orange varieties (including kinnow).
- Mandarin orange is the most cultivated citrus fruit in China, tropical Asia, India, Japan, the Mediterranean and the US (especially Florida). In India, citrus fruits rank third in production after banana and mango. Among citrus crops, the mandarin orange covers the highest area. The fruit is rich in vitamins A, B, C and phosphorus. It can be consumed fresh or in the form of juice, squash, syrup and jam.
Kinnow is low in saturated fat, high in juice content and is a good source of carotenoids, vitamin C and therapeutic agents such as limonin. In order to boost its marketing and profitability, certain useful techniques should be practised by farmers.
Harvesting: Fruit of proper size and colour should be harvested with clippers, retaining the shortest stalk and the ‘green button’ for maintaining its freshness during marketing. For fresh consumption, kinnow with TSS (total soluble solids)/acidity ratio ranging from 12:1 to 14:1 is preferred, but this ratio exists only from mid-January to the last week of February in Punjab. However, its picking can be done anytime from mid-December to mid-March, depending on the market demand and prevailing prices.
Waxing: It is recommended to use only those waxes at the post-harvest stage which are safe and have been approved by regulatory authorities Coatings primarily based on shellac, carnauba and beeswax have been approved by the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India). The wax coating helps in checking the water loss from the fruit’s surface, thereby preventing its ageing during transportation and marketing. It has been observed that kinnow treated with edible wax coatings can be kept for two weeks at an ambient temperature.
Packing: The 10-kg capacity corrugated fibre board boxes (45 cm x 24 cm x 18 cm) containing 45-60 pieces of fruit fetch good prices in Bengaluru and other southern markets. PAU has also designed corrugated fibre board boxes of 2-kg and 4-kg capacity for retail marketing of kinnow.
Storage: The demand for fresh kinnow declines in the market during January due to low temperatures in North India, resulting in a glut, a price crash and post-harvest losses. Therefore, the storage of kinnow is a viable option for reducing post-harvest losses and regulating marketing during the off-season. Research conducted at PAU has revealed that unbruised, mature and properly waxed kinnow packed in corrugated fibre board boxes or plastic crates can be stored for 45 days in the cold store maintained at 5-6°C and 90-95 per cent relative humidity. It must be ensured that the temperature should not fall below 5°C, otherwise it can cause a ‘chilling injury’ to the fruits.
Marketing strategies: The Nagpur mandarin from central India competes with kinnow in Indian markets. However, kinnow is becoming popular in southern markets because of its thirst-quenching juice and superior nutritional value. Therefore, in order to promote its marketing, only consignments of selected grades should be despatched. Greater efforts should be made to create a market database through extensive surveys to make kinnow competitive in distant markets. For markets of South-East Asia and West Asia, superior packaging and market strategies are required to be formulated as the Indian kinnow faces competition from the Pakistani variety. India itself is a huge market and the local potential of fresh as well as processed kinnow needs to be tapped. The National Horticulture Mission and the National Horticulture Board provide financial assistance to farmers for creating post-harvest infrastructure such as cold stores and integrated packhouses for various horticultural commodities. Farmers should contact the Department of Horticulture, Punjab, or the respective state department concerned for help and guidance. Farmers can also set up cooperatives for marketing quality produce. It will help in curbing their exploitation at the hands of traders.
The author is Director, Punjab Horticultural Post-harvest Technology Centre, PAU, Ludhiana
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