Kachchhi Kharek, Indigenous Dates From Kutch Awarded GI Tag
Image Credit: Flickr

The Kachchhi Kharek – a native variety of dates from the arid region of Kutch in Gujarat, is the latest recipient of the Geographical Indication tag as of January 2, this year. The district, which is known to produce 85% of India’s total date output each year, was awarded by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks (CGPDT) as a response to an application filed by the Unidates Farmer Producer Company Limited (UFPCL) in June 2021, as an initiative undertaken by the Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agriculture University through CM Muralidharan.

The chief minister, who was also a former research scientist at the university’s Date Palm Research Station in the town of Mundra, eventually went on to facilitate the process – allowing the UFPCL to take applicant position. The fruit is the second to be awarded the GI tag, following the Gir Kesar mango variety, thus giving the seasonal fruit its own identity as a way of promoting indigenous ingredients. The accolade is also intended to further the pricing and encourage higher export prices, thus benefitting farmers who cultivate date palms that produce 1.8 lakh tonnes of fruit each year.

Image Credits: Krishna Farm Kodki

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Available in two colours – red and yellow – the Kharek is harvested in a stage called khalal, where the fruits are mature, gained colour yet continue to maintain crispness. The 19,251 hectares of land dedicated to date cultivation out of the total of 20,446 hectares in Gujarat, are located in Kutch – making up for 94% occupancy in area. In addition to this, 1.7 million out of the 2 million date palms present in Kutch have seedling-origin palms of the native land – each with their own diverse characteristics, as a result of propagation. This means that the size, colour, shape and taste of the fruits can be slightly varied from one another, giving it its characteristic quality.

Due to their ability to withstand extreme weather conditions like drought or harsh winters, as well as high levels of saline tolerance, makes them an ideal crop for the region. Known to have a soft and chewy texture, the dates have juicy and tender flesh that is naturally sweet, with a rich caramel flavour. Also used in a variety of sweet preparations, these dates are also dried to preserve them for a longer period of time.