The indigenous variety of dates from Kutch, known as Kachchhi Kharek, has secured a Geographical Indication (GI) tag from the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks (CGPDT) of India. This marks the second fruit in Gujarat to receive such recognition, bringing joy to the farmers in the semi-arid district.
The CGPDT officially granted the GI certificate to Kachchhi Kharek on January 2, following an application submitted by the Unidates Farmer Producer Company Limited (UFPCL), a farmer producer organization in Kutch. The initiative began in June 2021 through Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agriculture University (SDAU), where CM Muralidharan, then a research scientist at SDAU’s Date Palm Research Station in Mundra, played a pivotal role. Subsequently, SDAU facilitated the application process, designating UFPCL as the applicant.
Muralidharan, now the Director of Research and Dean of Postgraduate Studies at SDAU, expressed enthusiasm for the local date palm growers, stating that the GI tag would provide their produce with a distinctive identity. This, in turn, is expected to open new opportunities for marketing and processing these delectable fruits.
Kutch’s fresh dates become the second fruit in Gujarat to receive a GI tag, following the recognition of Gir Kesar mango in 2011. Muralidharan highlighted the historical significance of date palms in Kutch, tracing their presence back 400-500 years. The region’s date palm groves are believed to have originated from seeds brought by settlers who traveled to the Middle East for Haj and trade, with potential contributions from Arab gardeners employed in the palaces of Kachchh’s former rulers.
Currently, Kutch boasts around two million date palms, with approximately 1.7 million being seedling-origin palms of indigenous varieties. The diversity in characteristics among these seedling-propagated palms makes the dates grown in Kutch unique and deserving of the GI tag, according to Muralidharan.
Harvested at the khalal stage, when the fruits have matured, accumulated sucrose, and turned red or yellow while still remaining crisp, Kutch’s fresh dates stand out globally. The area contributes over 85% of India’s total date palm cultivation, making it a distinctive hub for economically cultivating, marketing, and consuming fresh dates.
The Gujarat government reports that 94% of the state’s total date palm cultivation area, amounting to 19,251 hectares, is located in Kutch. Vikramsinh Jadeja, General Secretary of the Kutch Date Palm Growers Association, welcomed the GI tag, foreseeing opportunities for branding similar to Gir Kesar mango. He believes that the tag will instill consumer confidence, leading to better prices for the farmers.