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Artocarpus Foods sets up 9,000 sq ft jackfruit processing unit in Kannur
Monday, 22 August, 2016, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Lucy Fernandes, Mumbai
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Kerala produces a variety of fruits, including jackfruit. Owing to the dearth of processing units in the state, a majority of these remain unprocessed and are wasted, resulting in a loss of over 60 per cent of the jackfruit produced in Kerala.

To curb wastage and utilise the fruit’s potential, Artocarpus Foods Pvt Ltd has set up a jackfruit processing unit in Kannur’s Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (KINFRA) industrial zone.

Spread over an area of 9,000 sq ft, the unit, which has the machinery and equipment for the processing of the fruit, is currently focusing on the raw material concept. That is, it is supplying jackfruit as a raw material to other food industries. The major products include jackfruit pulp, paste, jackfruit bits, retort pouched unripe jackfruit and retort pouched tender jackfruit. Subhash Koroth, managing director, Artocarpus Foods Pvt Ltd, said, “Our initial investment was around Rs one crore.”

“We directors have poured a major part of the capital investment and are accrued through a bank loan. We have no foreign investors, but we are expecting foreign investment for our expansion and export,” he added.

“We are a beneficiary of the Kerala government’s industrial development scheme. Some of the value-added products produced by the unit will soon be available on Amazon under the brand name Hebon,” Koroth informed.

Manufacturing capacities
Unlike other fruits, jackfruit is not a viable product. Although India is one of its largest producers, jackfruit is not available in many parts of the country. Moreover, it is a seasonal fruit.

Improper planning may lead to the cutting off of jackfruit products from the market during the off-season. The second problem is the handling of the fruit. It is relatively large in size and the latex present in it causes difficult in processing.

As the recovery of the fruit is very less, approximately 70-80 per cent of the fruit becomes waste. Waste management is another major problem. It takes at least a month to degrade the jackfruit waste. Thirdly, it is a wild fruit. The uniformity of fruit, in terms of taste, colour and nutritional values, may vary from one tree to another. Koroth said, “Our daily production capacity ranges between 800kg to one ton, based on the variety of fruit. Varikka (hard flesh) is more difficult to process than kuzha (soft flesh), so the capacity may vary.”

“As we are the first jackfruit processing unit in India, there is a lot of research in the processing of the fruit. No machines are available for the cutting and separation of the flesh, so 50 per cent of the processes are done manually,” he added.

“Now we are making some changes in our plant to obtain hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certification. In the future, we plan to extend our plant to install individually quick frozen (IQF) storage facility,” Koroth stated.

Market
There is a huge demand for jackfruit products overseas because of its high nutritional values. Koroth said, “We are planning to export our products to the United States and European countries.”

“We are trying to tie up with US agencies to export tender jackfruit products. This may be as turning point for us. Gradually we will move on to ready-to-eat products. We are also planning to market our products at the retail level,” he added.

There are companies in South India marketing jackfruit chips and traditional food items such as payasam, halva and chakka varatti, which use the fruit as an ingredient. Koroth informed, “We have two methods to procure jackfruit. One is the fruit as a whole and the other is in the form of pre-processed food products (PPFP).”

“There are two or three self-help groups (SHG) near our facility. They collect the jack fruit and bring the manually processed fruit here. We given them Rs 20 per kg for soft flesh and Rs 35 per kg for hard flesh of the pre-processed jackfruit,” he added.

“We procure jackfruit from farmers and some mediators who collect the jackfruit from farmers. We give them Rs 8 per kg of jackfruit. The average weight of the jackfruit is 10-15kg. The farmers get at least Rs 80-100 per fruit. Earlier, it was a huge waste for many farmers because a small quantity was needed for domestic purpose,” Koroth stated.
 
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