Three cheers!

In what promises to be a game changer, a futuristic idea propounded by the Agriculture Department to produce wine and  low-alcohol liquor from fruits has been submitted before the government.  Though

Published: 10th November 2019 07:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th November 2019 07:03 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI:  With the  government accepting the Kerala Agricultural University report on manufacturing wine and low-alcohol liquor from fruits,  farmers and entrepreneurs in the state  are in high spirits. Hailing the move,  most of them have raised a toast in anticipation of fruitful harvests in the coming years. Unlike those who looked down upon it as something that merely adds to tipplers’ delight,  industry experts are keenly awaiting the proposal’s implementation which they believe will benefit farmers growing jackfruit, nutmeg, cashew and plantain. 

Sources in the agriculture department,  which is looking into the proposal’s  technological  feasibility, said it is still in the nascent stage. A clearer picture will emerge only after the necessary amendments are made to the Excise Act for adopting the proposal. “It is up to the state to take a decision on implementing the project. And first up,  licence has to be issued  and this can only be done by the Excise department. Again the government will have to take the call on setting up production units.

Authorities are also exploring the possibility of issuing the licence to registered farmer societies. Moreover, clarity is needed on the type of wine that will be produced and marketed. Presently, beverages with alcohol content can be sold only through BevCo and Consumer Fed outlets. Supermarkets and other stores can sell only non-alcoholic wine and beverages,” they said.

 In Kerala, red and white wine are mainly sold through BevCo outlets. Red wine is made from black grapes and has velvety flavour while white wine is mainly made from white (slightly greenish) grapes. 
Usually, oxidation during wine making will result in the beverage losing its fruity flavour. Hence, winemakers use oak barrels to retain the flavour. Another variety available here is port wine which is also red but which has an additional note of alcohol distilled from grapes. Usually, the alcohol content in wine available here ranges between 6%v/v and 16v/v.

“The call on the type of wine to be produced and capping the alcohol content  should also be taken by the government. The branding and marketing strategy too should  be devised. The entire proposal will take some time,” added sources.

Technical Assistance
Once the government makes up its mind,  KAU will provide technical assistance.  
“We were asked to look into the technological aspect of the proposal. In Kerala, a good quantity of  fruits grown locally get wasted during transit, storage and harvesting. The idea of making wine and low-alcohol  liquor from fruits will help reduce the wastage. Our study found  it is a feasible idea and we have the necessary technology  to assist the units. 

Based on this, we submitted the report and the government has accepted it. Now, the government should come up with specific terms and conditions on other aspects like licence and implementation. We can transfer/share the technology to such units selected by the government,” said P Indiradevi, director of Research, Kerala Agricultural University.

Industry reaction
The industry experts are weighing the proposal which they believe will immensely benefit the state’s farmers.  “ For instance, let us take the example of jackfruit. In Kerala,  we have mainly two types of jackfruit--  soft fleshed ‘Koozha’ and hard fleshed ‘Varikka’. Of these, ripened ‘Varikka’ variety is preferred by many. A sizeable number of ‘Koozha’ variety jackfruit goes waste once they become over-ripe. If we  are able to make  wine using ‘Koozha’, then it will help bring down  wastage. It is good for the economy and good for farmers ,” said James Joseph, founder of Jackfruit365.

Mulberry
Once cultivated on a largescale, the area under cultivation of mulberry has reduced considerably. The plant was primarily cultivated as feed for the silkworm industry. Mulberry was cultivated on a largescale in Palakkad, Idukki, Wayanad and Thiruvanantha -puram districts.  However, with profits nose-diving and diseases taking its toll, farmers started giving up cultivation. Farmers did use it to make jams, and other delicacies. A group of farmers near Angamaly is still engaged in cultivating mulberry.  Mulberries are often made into wine, fruit juice, jam or canned foods. It can also be dried and eaten as a snack. Fresh mulberries consist of 88% water and only have 60 calories per cup (140 gm). By fresh weight, they provide 9.8% carbs, 1.7% fiber, 1.4% protein, and 0.4% fat. Mulberries are often consumed dried, similar to raisins. In this form, they contain 70% carbs, 14% fiber, 12% protein, and 3% fat — making them fairly high in protein compared to most berries. 

Jackfruit 
Known as the official fruit of Kerala, the high pulp content in ripened jackfruit makes it a good ingredient for wine production. A perfect fermentation process can help in producing wine with 12% v/v* of ethanol and scintillating aroma of jackfruit. In Kerala, mainly there are two types of jackfruit, ie, the soft-fleshed ‘koozha’ and hard-fleshed ‘varikka’. The usual fruiting time is the first six months of the year, January-February to May-June.productionIn India, the annual production of jackfruit is estimated at 

Cashew apple 
Usually, after extracting cashew nut, the fruit which is known as cashew apple is being thrown away as waste. Though the making of Feni from cashew apple is common in Goa, it is high in alcohol content. Making of wine with low-alcohol content is possible from the fruit.
Total area in Kerala under cashew cultivation: 39,000 hectaresNational share of Kerala in cashew production 10.79%

Nutmeg
The evergreen nutmeg fruit, which is available on all season, can also be a good ingredient for winemaking. The nuts and mace inside it are spices of high demand. The outer flesh can be used for winemaking.  In Kerala, nutmeg is being produced in over 450 hectares

17,05,000.46 tonnes

Kerala’s share 10.98 %
Annual production in Kerala
1,90,000.14 tonnes
Area under production: 91,982 hectares

(Source: National Horticulture 
Board)

*v/v: Alcohol by volume

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