Jamun, one of the favourite summer fruits, seems to be dominating major fruit markets in Hyderabad. It is also a favourite among street vendors who sell seasonal fruits by roaming around with their pushcarts in different neighbourhoods.
With its shining black colour and juicy flavour, this fruit attracts customers who are looking to get some relief from the extreme heat.
Youngsters from various communities living in villages and small towns along the major highway and other routes are also selling jamun from their wooden baskets. It enables them to earn a small amount which helps them ease a little of their families economic troubles. Their customers are mostly people travelling in intercity buses and other vehicles.
The National Highway near Hyderabad city is considered a hub of major and minor fruits, and youth of nearby villages always take it as a blessing for better livelihood. Ajlo Thakur, a small-scale contractor of minor and traditional fruits like phalsa (Grewia asiatica), chiku (Manilkara zapota), and jamun gardens in Hyderabad city neighbourhoods has different stories about the product and value of jamun.
In his understanding, this tree has resistance power to survive without or less water for many months. But its fruit is quite sensitive. It is difficult to deal with it when the fruit matures. It falls instantly when it ripens. That is why producers always take care to pick it in a timely manner for supply to the market.
Nobody can measure the average yield of this fruit due to its uncertainty, but each tree must yield about 80-100 kilogram, depending on its care and weather phenomenon.
Sharing his long time experience to deal with this fruit, Ajlo said, “Its value can be measured from the fact that people, residing in Islamabad and major cities of Pakistan always demand to send packs of this fruit during the season.”
He said they present the fruit packs as gift to their friends and relative, especially elderly people, who like the fruit not only because of its slightly spicy flavour, but also because of its medicinal value.
Hyderabad district is one of the major contributors of jamun to the local markets. Otherwise, Mirpurkhas, Tando Allahyar, Matiary, Sanghar, Nawabshah, Naushehro Feroz, Khairpur, Sukkur, Larkana, and other districts in Sindh also produce this fruit.
This short-time summer fruit usually comes in market during the mid of May and June and lasts till early July. This fruit is quite sensitive compared to other fruits, which is why growers believe that only 25 percent of the total production is utilised. Most of the fruit goes to waste due to extreme heat, winds, and rain showers.
According to farmers, they cannot wait to pick the fruit like mango, chiku, date, etc. Jamun just falls instantly, as soon as the fruit is ripe.
Sometimes, even whole branches fall of the tree during extreme heat and weight of the fruits. Similarly, strong winds and rain showers also damage the fruits and trees heavily, leaving producers in a helpless situation. But the producers despite these problems always show love and take care of this fruit.
This year prices had gone up to Rs200-Rs250/kilogram during the month of Ramazan. But now the prices have declined to Rs50-Rs75/kg.
Many people have installed pulping machines in urban neighbourhoods to prepare fruit juice for the market. They sell jamun juice to specific customers, mostly diabetic patients. They believe that the demand of jamun juice sometimes increases more than their capacity.
Contractors of mango orchards that are spread over several acres of land make a deal with producers for one-two years for maintenance. Jamun trees usually are part of these mango orchards for beautification.
Otherwise, there are no separate jamun orchards. It may also be found at the banks of major canals and distributaries.
Presently, due to climatic variation and extreme water scarcity, jamun fruit, despite having nutritive value and rich carbohydrates accompanied by enough protein, is fighting for survival.
It is because many mango producers are looking in a hurry to clean mango orchards for growing alternative crops and fruits. Hence this important fruit, jamun, is losing its importance.
The farmers, who have been associated with this fruit and its gardens for a long time, said that jamun trees being tall and lush green are usually grown for shade and windbreak around the mango gardens in Sindh.
Though, mango, guava and chiku juices are favourite among consumers whenever they hit the markets, jamun has specific demand because of its medicinal value to help diabetic patients. Jamun is also used in making beverages, jellies, jam, squash, and pickles. Local people love it to beat the heat and find it very refreshing.
In Ayurveda, intake of the fruit is considered beneficial and a cheaper way to keep diabetes in control.
People in the subcontinent consider the fruit and its seed beneficial to treat diabetes and digestive ailments. And this is why many alternative medical practitioners and home remedy experts name this fruit for treating various ailments that bother the routine functions of the human body.
Despite all the benefits of jamun, producers are uncertain of the future. Rising water scarcity, dryness, and loss due to abrupt natural phenomenon put this valuable fruit at risk.
The fact that many mango growers are planning to clear their orchards to plant some other trees or crops is also an excessively worrisome aspect for the jamun caretakers.
They wonder if the orchards of the favourite mango can be chopped down and cleared at an alarming rate, what the chances of the much ignored jamun trees were. They urge the government to take some policy initiatives to protect fruit orchards from visible threats, and announce incentives for all major and minor fruit producers.
The writer is a staff member