Nongspung is Meghalaya’s Kiwi haven

SHILLONG: Nongspung in East Khasi Hills District and roughly 50 kms away from Shillong will soon turn into a tourist destination but for a different reason. Tourists can go there to pluck the exotic Kiwi fruit which until some years ago was imported from New Zealand and sold at Rs 400-500 in the fruit markets of Shillong. Since the past 3-4 years Kiwis started coming in from Arunachal Pradesh. Now they will be available locally.
Midalis Lyngdoh, one of the first growers of Kiwi in Nongspung, first got the plants from her brother Sengwell Lyngdoh who is a retired government employee. In a plot of about 2000 sq ft, Midalis has been able to harvest roughly about 600 kilograms of Kiwi. She is selling them at Rs 200 a kilogram.

A Kiwi vine at the farm at Nongspung.

Adding value to the fruit, Midali’s family is also now engaged in processing the fruit into jam. One kilogram of fruit produces 1.5 kg of jam after adding sugar and other ingredients which subsequently sells at Rs 400 per bottle of 500 grams.
Aiban Swer, Director, Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA), who travels the length and breadth of Meghalaya to discover what help young entrepreneurs like Midalis require to scale up their activities, is now helping to market the jam which will be on display at the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Swer, took a group of visitors to the farm at Nongspung on November 8. The visitors were allowed to pluck the fruit themselves and weigh them before paying Midalis. Between them they bought nearly Rs 15,000 worth of Kiwis. Some like former Ambassador RV Warjri and his son Kitri Warjri bought those for making wine.
Speaking to this correspondent, Sengwell Lyngdoh said, “I first brought two male and eight female Kiwi plants about four years ago from the Horticulture Department in Shillong. I was advised that I would need one male plant for every one-to-eight female plants. I was also told that if I have to know whether I am growing the right gender of plants, I should be able to tell which are male and which are female. Further, I was also told by officers of the Horticulture Department that the Kiwi takes three years to fruit. I gave the plants to my sister since she has land. After two years my sister became impatient and wanted to cut off the vine. I pleaded with her to give it one more year and sure enough by the third year the flowers appeared and then the fruit. And now we are reaping the harvest.”
The fruit has been selling in the Shillong markets but there are attempts by the sellers to exploit the growers by bringing down the price. This is where the MBDA and its several wings need to look at the complete value chain.
To ensure the Kiwi vine produces better fruit, the vine can is trained over a T-shaped iron fence or arbour and should get enough sunshine for the fruit to ripen. Midalis and her family are now allocating more space for propagating Kiwi from the pruned vines.
Now more people from Nongspung want to grow Kiwi but they are also keen to promote tourism so they can showcase their pristine rivers and hot springs and also tell their stories about toads that foretell of good harvest and weather changes and calamities.
The Kiwi then is set to become another product for export provided MBDA’s institute of entrepreneurship finds the market for this exotic fruit.

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