Wednesday 8 February 2012

Date Palm; It is Declining in Tripura

       Two decades ago the scenes of rustic rural villages of Tripura were quite different from today. There have been many changes in the rural life and rural activities due to fusion of many trends and techniques of today.
       While, some changes had given the light to the rural population for furtherance and some had really changed in a way that has become a reason of concern of the day.
     Out of many changes that has taken or shaped in other wise is proliferation and flourishing and diminishing of certain useful crops or species in the rural areas.
       Here, the date palm, the famously known for sugar alternative nicely fits to the changes that has become a cause of concern of the day.
       In those days, especially in the plain areas of the state, date palm tree used to be found in and around the pond and also in the backyard. People of course, do not give any nursing to the date palm tree but safe guard the date palm for it is useful tree for date palm juice.
       The activity relating to the date palm usually starts from the month of October or other wise during fall winter and it continues up to the month of March in every year.

What is the activity?

       It is of course many will say silly and common thing and others who are to see and feel would say amazing. We all know our sweet is sourced from the sugarcane, sugar beet etc but the sweet yielding tree that is date palm is not known by all especially people of the temperate countries.
       What the date palm yield is of course ‘many’; it would be in one liner. Because as we go by product produced from the juice of the date palm, we get product like tuak, a hardened and concentrated sweet ball and another is semi liquid or otherwise, a thick liquid before making tuak.
     The usage of date palm juice (processed) is like use is in different types of dessert preparation which otherwise is used as an alternative to the usual sugar produced out of sugarcane.
       However, the flavor of aroma of date palm sweet product is next to comparable. In addition, people also consumes in raw form immediately after the collection of date palm juice in the morning hour.
     It was quite popular and commands the same demands in today’s market condition too. The use of this date palm sugar is woven in the fabric of the social ceremony to the occasional usage by the people of the state.

Method of juice tapping

       The process of course, very simple and quite common to the people that is to say that it is known by almost every one as far as techniques or methods of date palm juice extraction or juice tapping is concerned.
      Juice tapping usually starts from the tree which is of five to six years old and height of four to five feet from the ground level. However, age is not criteria; it is some times the diameter and height of the tree that people take into consideration for selecting the tapping sized date palm.
       On the fall winter of every season people associated with tapping of date palm starts cleaning the frond of the date palm at the top keeping certain rows of frond intact. The cleaning is made in circle around the date palm at the top of the tree and cleaned out portion (in one side) is selected for further scaling through the specialized sickle.
       Once the scaling is made in a certain depth, it is kept as it is for another one week without any operation in between until the scaled out portion is further deepened and tapping nose is fitted within the earmarked portion.
      The tapping nose is fitted in such a way that the juice secreted are collected in the side canal from where it is further pushed to the earthen container fitted in every collection time.
       The time of tapping starts at the afternoon time or evening hour and juice is collected in the morning of next day. In every tapping time, a layer in the particular portion is scaled in thin layer for ensuring the secretion of juice and this is made in every alternate day for tapping of the juice.
       What is the next step in action? Once the juice is collected, it is further accumulated in the big container. The container with juice is heated slowly to such time till the juice is concentrated in such form which could easily be solidified in the desired form and size.
       Here, of course the timing of the collection of juice is also important that is to say that the juice has to be collected in the early morning hour and, any deviation in the timings will affect on the quality of the juice collected.
     It is due to the contamination of different germs that could act as and when day temperature rises with the time.
       Another prevalent cause of spoiling of the date palm juice is due to the cloudy weather, during cloudy weather, the juice gets spoiled due to micro organisms’ activity in the congenial weather condition.
What is the marketing aspect of date palm sweet?
       It is seasonal, it is limited and it fetches good market price which is well above the usual sugar available in the market. But is purely seasonal, within a couple of months of winter season, market is empty means no date palm products.

Importance of date palm in the farmers’ perspective

       The fact is no farmer or household is considering for plantation of date palm tree like any other plantation crops , it is only the accidental that most of the date palm tree comes up in the farmers field which are used for tapping for juice purpose.
     Of course, villagers are in habit of planting of date palm tree surrounding the pond, reason for planting of date palm surrounding the pond is not known but it is presumed that it acts as natural barrier some times due to its thorny leaves.
       If the date palm is considered, it can not be considered as most profitable venture due to the fact that it is not tried in scaleable size but the fact is also that it is not bad to have little side income from the homestead date palm tree by the people of the state.
       This is not only the complementary to the sugar during this particular time but also gives considerable income through selling of date palm juice products in the markets.

Present scenario of date palm in Tripura

       There has been rapid changes in every sphere of activities in the rural areas but the question is; was that change progressive one or otherwise? Of course, simply changing the pattern in the date palm scenario may not be construed as otherwise but the fact is how the established date palm diminishes over the period of time?
       Date palm which, if not in the scaleable level but was in the prominence of rural condition is no more forthcoming and it is in fact changing rapidly wiping the last sign of date palm in several regions of the state. It is not that the date palm products are not available in the market but how available the tree is in its root place is the main question.
     The fact is it is disappearing slowly in the state, in many areas of the state where there was prominent date palm centric activities two decades ago have no sign of such activism.
       The new generation may be unfortunate to even to take a sight of real date palm tree in the locality which their forefather had played with.
       While changes are always welcomed but the fact the change should be progressive and harmonious in the given environment.
                                    Agritangkol dated 08.02.2012 at 6.20 P.M

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