DRAGON FRUIT COUNTRY REPORT FROM INDIA
Dragon fruit (Hylocereus spp.), a herbaceous perennial climbing cactus, widely known as Red Pitaya, has recently drawn much attention among the Indian growers, not only because of its attractive red or pink color and economic value as fruit, but also valued for its high antioxidant potential, vitamins and minerals content. Being a native of Southern Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica, dragon fruit was introduced in India during the late `90s and still the area under its cultivation is gradually increasing. Farmers in the Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Andaman & Nicobar Islands have already taken up its cultivation, and the estimated total area under Dragon fruit cultivation in these regions may be less than 400 ha. Majority of the dragon fruits presently available in Indian markets are imported from Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Being a cactus family and requires long day for flowering, dragon fruit cultivation is well suited in the agro-climatic regions of Southern, Western and North Eastern India that are dry and frost-free. Due to high demand both in domestic and international markets, dragon fruit production could be an economical avocation to both backyard growers as well as entrepreneurs of medium and large scale plantations. Cultivation of dragon fruit already started in different parts of India with many success stories of farmer from different regions. Many nursery men started propagation for raising planting material of dragon fruit. One of the widely grown cultivars and most commonly available dragon fruit is the red color epicarp with white and pink pulped sub-sweet juicy pulp matrix. It is a fast return perennial fruit crop with economic production in the first year after planting, and full production within three to five years. It was also noted to initially produce in its first years on wards provided desirable cultural management practices are applied. Although the initial investment is relatively high, profit is substantial within 4-5 years. The red flesh species i.e H. costaricensis are additionally rich in betalains, meeting the increasing trade interest for antioxidant products and natural food colorant. Fruits are easy to keep fresh under room condition. The crop is hardy and can survive in any type of climatic condition favorable for flowering and fruiting and soil condition provided with good drainage.