Sunday, 7 December 2014

Ber- “A Poor man’s fruit” .

Ber is the on of well known minor fruit crops of pakistan.Botanically it is known as “Zi Zi phus jujuba” and it belongs to family “Rhamnaceae”.  It is commonly cultivated at domestic level or at small to medium orchard level. Commercial cultivation of ber is far behind in Pakistan as compared to other countries. It is commonly considered as poor people fruit. but due to increase of awareness executive class people are also consuming ber due to its very high nutritious value. The demand for this fruit in the market has amplified significantly as this fruit is a rich source of phenolic compounds, ascorbic acid, total antioxidant capacity, carotenoids and minerals mainly iron and potassium.
 The flowers of Ber attracts a lot of honey bees that can contribute to protection and improvement in economic conditions of the people in the local area. The tree of Ber is an excellent fuel wood tree and creates a good charcoal, with a heat content of 4900 kcal per kg. So, it is considered to be good both as firewood and charcoal. The fruit of this tree is dried and powdered with spices to make a product known as, churan but still no standardized products of Ber have been developed in our country. The leaves and sticks of most species of this fruit may be used as nutritious fodder for livestock because of high dry weight protein content so in this way leaves of this fruit are also an important source of protein for animals. Though, there are a huge number of conventional medicinal uses of this plant it is mainly used for the treatment of dysentery and diarrhea.
 The season of harvesting differs regarding to cultivar and location. In our country, mostly varieties matured from mid-February until mid-March and in some parts of the country they ripen in March or mid-March until the end of the April. In any location, diverse cultivars can be harvested over a period of months. One worker is capable of manually harvesting about 50 kg of fruit per day. After covering in white cloth, the fruits are placed into paper-lined burlap bags of 50 kg capacity for carriage to markets throughout the country. Maturation time for Ber fruits differs with respect to genotype and environment. Some of them mature after 120 days whereas others can take up to 170 days before they are mature. Commonly grown verities of ber in pakistan are Anoki. Dehli white, Nokia, Mahmood wali, Bahawalpur selection, Imran 9 and Gola. Among these Dehli white and Anoki are more consumer appealing. Bahawalpur selection is the hybris ber veriety. Dehli white is more sweeter in taste as compared to other verities of ber.
 In pakistan it is cultivated on a very small area as compared to other major fruit crops of pakistan. Area and production of ber in the past few years is given in the folowing table.

Area (Hectares)
Percetage Change
This table reflects that on an overall basis, area under Ber cultivation in Pakistan (2005-09) increasedby 41.94 % over the given years whereas Ber production was concerned it also indicated increasing trend by 38.43% over the given years. Harvesting this fruit at the suitable maturity is imperative for increasing the shelf-life and quality of the Ber. Maturity is mostly identified by the color of this fruit. This fruit should be collected when it is mature green and mature golden yellow stages reliant on various factors viz. the Ber grower, market distance and post-harvest management techniques. Commonly, used method for Ber harvesting is by manually shaking or thrashing the tree branches to basis the ripe or mature fruits to drop to the land.

The harvest time of ber greatly influences its shelf life.  General recommendation is to harvest the ber early in the morning or in the evening. In our rural areas common practice is that ber are sold on the same day when they are harvested  . A recent study reported that fruits harvested at midday had a better storage life than those harvested in the morning or evening it may be due to greater loss of water from the morning or evening harvested fruits.
 Primarily this fruit is sold in domestic markets and that the international market is not still developed. The majority of this fruit in the country is not cultivated on a large-scale or commercial basis, but rather is grown in home gardens or field boundaries. Like other major fruits, it is also highly perishable in nature and their quality declines rapidly after harvest especially if proper post harvest handling procedures are not followed. Desirable quality maintenance can be achieved by harvesting fruits at optimal maturity and storing fruits at the proper temperature, humidity and atmosphere. This fruit is packaged improperly or that has uninformative labeling, regardless of the quality have less selling. Since in many cases and many areas there is limited availability of acceptable quality fruit and also lack of market information systems so, it is essential that researchers keep abreast of their development so that any interventions can be recommended. Work on harvesting, grading and packaging of this fruit has been undertaken and a number of recommendations exist. There is an utmost need of research, not only on the economics along the production to consumption chain but on the socio-economic benefits mainly those affecting the well-being of family cultivators in the country.

About Author:
Muhammad Ahsan Qureshi is affiliated with Agrihunt as an author. He is student 0f Msc (hons.) In Horticulture, From University of Agriculture Faisalbad,
Note: This article also published in Agrihunt E-Newsletter of December,2014.
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