Indian scientists have successfully grown the Chinese ‘Monk fruit’ in Himachal Pradesh’s Palampur district. Monk fruit, which hails from China, has high nutritious value, low calories and sweetness that comes from a natural compound that does not increase blood sugar, making it safe for consumers with diabetes.
Probably in first-of-its kind efforts, scientists from the Indian Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology (IHBT), a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) lab, are now busy working towards development of good agricultural practices and varietal improvement of the Monk fruit. They hope to make it available for sale in Indian market soon for the diabetic patients and manufacturers seeking a low-calorie ingredient.
“Since India is home to 62.4 million people with diabetes Type 2, this is wondrous fruit for them. We have been successful in our experiments at our farms. “Now, we are focusing for process technology and product development (extract) from Monk fruit. We hope intense sweeteners made from the juice of this fruit will soon be available in the market,” said Dr Sanjay Kumar, Director CSIR-IHBT, Palampur.
Dr Probir Kumar Pal, Senior Scientist, IHBT explained that “Keeping in mind importance and essentiality of non-nutritive natural sweetener, and diverse agro-climatic conditions here, we introduced its seeds from China through NBPGR-ICAR early this year.
After intense research, the quality fruits have also been harvested at Institutional Experimental Farm.
“Now, a team of scientists including agronomist, chemist, plant breeder and molecular biologist from the IHBT are intensively working towards development of good agricultural practices and varietal improvement,” Dr Pal said.
Though Monk fruit is the native of China, this plant is not commercially cultivated even in the neighbouring country due to lack of proper agro-technique, suitable cultivar and scientific knowledge. Here we have successfully grown it by ensuring adequate climatic conditions and agro-techniques.”
In spite of high demand for non-caloric sweeteners from natural sources, Monk fruit accounts for a small share of the alternative sweetener market, remaining at about 2.2 per cent in natural sweetener markets. Thus, the market share of monk fruit is small because of the limited supply.
However, global demand is gradually on increase in view of rising number of diabetes and obsese. According to an estimate, the global market for Monk fruit is expected to generate Rs 379.4 million revenue by the end of 2026, said Dr Pal.