As we get set for the community celebration called the ‘Konkan Fruit Fest’ for the 17th time in twenty years, my mind goes back to when it all began.
In November 2002, the Botanical Society of Goa (BSG) was raising funds to conduct its fifth edition of the ‘Plant Utsav’ – the expanded version of its plant show of 1992 – and a few of us were seated with Sanjit Rodrigues, then the Chief Officer of Panjim Municipal Council (PMC).
He would not give us funds, but could provide support if we held the event in Garcia de Orta garden, Panjim, as he wanted to breathe life into this public space.
We held the event, and at its valedictory function came the suggestion from the Mayor, Ashok Mogu Naik, to co-organize a fruit festival.
Accordingly, a fruit festival was held at the Dr Francisco Luis Gomes Garden in May 2003, with the PMC turned into Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) as the ‘Festival Partner’ of BSG. Thus, the Konkan Fruit Fest was born!
The BSG and the Corporation of the City of Panaji (registered April 2003) hosted the first ever Konkan Fruit Fest in Goa. An organizing committee was formed with Dr Ajit Shirodkar as the Chairperson and Miguel Braganza as the Organizing Secretary, while the President of the BSG was Dr HY Karapurkar.
THE EXHIBITORS, THE EXHIBITS
The Goa Directorate of Agriculture, the ICAR-Goa (now ICAR-CCARI), the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Hessarghatta; the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwar (Karnataka State); and the Regional Fruit Research Station, Vengurla (RFRS-Vengurla) of DBSKKV-Dapoli (Maharashtra State) were contacted and they joined hands to bring the freshest fruits in a myriad of shapes, colours, flavours and aromas, all at one place and without a roof.
Many of them continue to participate to this day.
The Directorate of Agriculture, Goa, exhibited a range of fruits. It looked beyond its farms on to the orchards of progressive growers. With an impressive extension network throughout Goa, the directorate has no peer in its reach to farmers.
Veterans like Jaisinghrao Rane, Prabhakar Keni and Shrihari Subrai Naik Kurade brought loads of fruit varieties to the very first show.
That year, there were 198 entries from 79 competitors from all over Goa. They included aonla (Phyllanthes emblica), rajamla (Phyllanthes acidus) kokum (Garcinia indica), bilimbi (Averrhoa bilimbi), karmal (Averrhoa carambola), guava (Psidium guajava), chickoo (Manilkara achras), papaya (Carica papaya), jackfruit (Artocarpus heterofolia), pineapple (Ananas comosus), cashew (Anacardium occidentale), mango (Mangifera indica), karvanda (Carissa carandas), jamun (Syzygium cumini), watery rose apples (Syzygium aquem) and the not-so-common soursop (Anona muricata), mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), otambi (Artocarpus lakoocha), godkam (Terminalia bellirica), egg fruit (Pouteria campechiana) velvet apple (Diospyrus kauki) and West Indian cherry (Malphigia glabra).
Visitors will get to see many of these fruits this year, too, though the focus is on tender jackfruit (TJF) and berries.
ICAR-Goa (now ICAR-CCARI) showcased the fruits of 35 Goan mango varieties from the collection planted by PA Matthew. His book Mangoes of Goan Origin, published by ICAR, speaks for him. His mango tree collection is a living testimony to his work of a dozen years in Goa before he returned to the land of spices, at Kozhikode, Kerala.
Dr AR Desai, who took charge of cashew development in 1996, has released four varieties of cashew, named Goa-1, 2, 3 & 4; and a farmer, named Rajaram Maulankar, has developed his own varieties, which we hope he will register and protect.
The story of the KFF and the BSG is incomplete without mention of the then Secretary for Science & Technology, Dev Singh Negi, IAS. He bailed the Botanical Society of Goa with a generous project for conservation of biodiversity after the maiden event rendered the BSG bankrupt. It has lived on to host 16 editions in twenty years in spite of reaching near collapse of its funds in 2011.
The conservation of fruit diversity and entrepreneurship development in GenNext has always been the focus of the festival, which provides an informal platform for interaction between the common man, scientists, extension officials, nutritionists, chefs, growers and processors of fruits.
Come, see it for yourself!
The author is the former Chairman of the GCCI Agriculture Committee, CEO of Planter's Choice Pvt Ltd, Additional Director of OFAI and Garden Superintendent of Goa University, and has edited 18 books for Goa & Konkan