ALAPPUZHA: After a three-year-long research, the Kerala Agriculture University (KAU) has acquired the geographical indication (GI) tag for the sesame growing in the Onattukara region of Central Travancore. According to B Lovely, assistant professor with the Onattukara Regional Agriculture Research Station (ORARS) of KAU, the Onattukara sesame is known for its medicinal value and quality.
“From the 18th century, traditional ayurvedic doctors from the erstwhile Travancore kingdom utilised Onattukara sesame oil for the treatment of diseases related to rheumatism and to protect the skin. The research carried out at ORARS found that sesame is high in vitamin E and antioxidants. The specific climate and nutrients of the soil of the region is generating various medicinal value for the oilseeds,” Lovely said.
The intellectual property rights (IPR) cell of the university was also actively engaged in patenting the product. Marayur jaggery, Nilambur teak and eight other products from the state have already gained GI tag. This will open new avenues to market the product internationally, Lovely said.
Sesame farming has been on the decline in the region for the past few years. However, the agriculture department and other agencies took initiatives to reverse the trend and increase the area under farming. The GI tag will revitalise sesame farmers of the region, officials said.
According to them, the Onattukara sesame is grown on around 500 hectares spread across the three districts of Alappuzha, Kollam and Pathanamthitta. Average annual production in this region is around 150 to 200 tonnes. Apart from the traditional ‘ayali’ variety, farmers also grow the Kayamkulam-1, thilak, thilathara and thilarani varieties — all developed by ORARS, Kayamkulam.
The research carried out by KAU scientists found that Onattukara sesame has more value than those cultivated in other parts of the country. Besides vitamin E and antioxidants, it also contains oleic acid, linoleic acid, palmitoleic acid, etc, which help maintain good health.
Getting the GI tag will make Onattukara sesame more popular and increase its market value. Increased prices will benefit farmers. Now the sesame seed is priced around `200 to 250/kg and its oil is priced around Rs 500 to 600/kg, Lovely said. The agriculture department and ORARS initiated steps to promote sesame farming in the region by providing financial assistance and seeds free of cost to farmers.
The IPR cell has helped obtain the GI tag for agricultural products, including Marayur jaggery, Chengalikodan nendran banana. , Central Travancore jaggery, Kaipad rice.