The number of passion fruit farmers in Kerala has grown in the past five years. While many households grow the tropical fruit as part of homestead farming, it is now cultivated on a large scale in the districts of Idukki, Ernakulam, Palakkad, Thrissur, Kozhikode and many others.
PP Joy, former head of Pineapple Research Station, a centre under Kerala Agricultural University, has conducted several studies and published papers on the fruit and its farming practices. He says many factors have contributed to the cultivation of passion fruit gaining ground in Kerala. “What gave it leverage was its nutritional and medicinal properties. It is rich in Vitamin A, C, potassium, fibre and other nutrients. The demand shot up after it was publicised that the fruit can increase platelet count in patients suffering from dengue. Although there are no official figures about the area of passion fruit cultivation in Kerala, our rough estimate is nearly 500 hectares.”
EK Yusuf, former superintendent of the farm, says, “Once we started getting good revenues from passion fruit squash sold through our counters, the area of cultivation was increased from 2 to 20 acres (in three years) and we diversified into products such as jam, jelly and pickle, now marketed under the brand name Fruitnel.”