Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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Author (left) chatting with a pineapple vendor in Imphal

Savouring Manipur Pineapples and Chats with Roadside Vendors Selling Them

Pineapple usually means the pine-cone shaped fruits with a crown of stiff prickly leaves and sweet-testing flesh. Pineapple fruit originally came from Brazil and Paraguay. Today it is cultivated throughout most of the tropics and parts of the subtropics, particularly in Thailand, on the Philippines, on Hawaii, in Brazil, Mexico, India (including Manipur), Nigeria and on the Ivory Coast.

The native inhabitants of Paraguay called the pineapple nana meant (=delicious fruit), giving rise to the Latin name Ananas.  The English pina describe the fruits resemblance to a pine cone. On the Philippnes, the pineapple is also known as the fruit with thousand eyes.

It was Christopher Columbus who brought the pineapple to Europe. The Portuguese introduced pineapple in India during 1550s. The people of Manipur believed in ancestor worshipping-worshipping of the first ancestor, legendary or mythical, after which the clan was descended. Pineapple is the fruit entitled to the Luwang clan for offering to their ancestors and this clan merged to the Kanglei Kingdom during 949s AD. Now pineapple becomes an important commercial fruit crop of India and Manipur. Manipur is one of the leading pineapple growing states in the country. It is quietly cultivated in the adjoining areas of the valley and the mid-hills of Manipur. From the accounts of E.W Dun, growing of pineapple in Manipur for selling in the market may begun during 1880s. Few varieties of pineapple found in Manipur are Kew, Queen,Thayong, Yalang etc. On interacting with some pineapple sellers and growers, they narrated their own stories of running their business.

A street vendor, Ch. Inibala Devi (52 years) of Laipham Khunou, Imphal East narrated that she has been selling pineapple for the last 23 years at National Highway, Indo-Burma Road, on the Eastern front of D M college of Science from 6 am to 6.30 pm in summer and upto 4.30 pm in winter. She sells seasonal fruits such as pineapple, watermelon, papaya, etc. she sells the fruits by making fruit salad adding salt, black salt, chilly powder and besan. She told that, she could sold 100 pieces of pineapple during the peak seasoned period. On rainy and windy days it is very hard to sell fruits. She also narrated that, she had been running the family by selling pineapple with the help of her husband in the business. As the road where she sells fruit is a National Highway, with frequent movement of VIPs’ she faces many problems in selling her products as the authority keep on telling and instruct to vacate the area and other restrictions.

She narrated that if no one turn up for buying the fruits and the fruits get spoiled after it wet in the rain. She appealed the farmers to produce organic pineapple for good health. She appealed the government to arrange a special market place for pineapple seller and a cold storage so that the pineapple fruit which is one of the most favourite fruit of the state could be available round the year. She told that the wasted peels of the pineapple are used as fodder for cows of her locality.

Another, street vendor, who sells pineapple, L. Ronibala Devi (45 years) from Porompat, Imphal East says that she was teaching at a private school before she sells pineapple. As the pay of the private school teachers is very low, she left the job and started her own business. She had been selling fruits at National Highway roadside of DM college of Science, Eastern side for the last four years. She narrated that she could sell 400 to 500 pieces of pineapple on a good day. But during winter it is hard to sell even 10 pieces of pineapple. She runs her business from 6 am to 6.30 pm . She appealed the authority to construct a special market shed for the fruits seller where they could sell their products whole year without any disturbance from rain, wind and others. During Kang  festival(Rath-yatra) she could sell pineapple for around 20,000rupees. On asking about the availing of financial loan from Bank, she said, as all her time is engaged in selling her products, she does not have time to go to bank and apply for loans and other facilities provided by the government. Her message to the society is that not to be choosy for any profession. Instead of wasting time let us earn money in a right way for a sound and independent economy.

Laishram Landhoni (65 years) from Moirang expressed that she has owned a pineapple farm at Khousabung, Churchandpur. All her family members are involved in cultivation and other works in producing pineapple. During the COVID-19 pandemic, her business was totally failed for two years without any earning. This year also she was in a confusion state whether to resume her business or not because of COVID.  But with a firm belief and inspiration from her family members she continues her business. As of now she did not have a juicer machine, so she could not sell her product as before, since all the manufacturing units/company buy only the juice.

Mr. Harinder Shah (52 years) from Paona Bazar who has been running his juice stall on the road side at Mapal Kangjeibung for the last 20 years expressed that pineapple fruit is one of the favourite fruit of the people of the state. He expressed that pineapple juice is consumed for digestion after food and by people who are smokers for cleaning their respiratory tract and lungs. Particularly during the COVID -19 pandemic he highlights his hardship with no earning which lead his life affected badly. He also said that pineapple juice is on high demand after lemon juice. He sells pineapple juice from June to November every year. During season time of pineapple production, he buys pineapple costing 15 rupees per piece and around 33 rupees during off season. The pineapple supply of his shop are mainly from Moirang  and Churchandpur areas. He appealed people to drink pineapple juice for good health.

From their narratives it came to understand the need of setting up for cold storage in the state and a special market for selling fruits. Pineapple is one of the favourite fruit of the people of the state. For the Meitei Community it is an important fruit because it is a basic ingredient of all the rituals such as wedding, birth and dead ceremony and one of the cuisines in grand feast. More approach need to focus on producing processed item of pineapple. A new trend of producing fibres from the pineapple leaves has emerged. More Production and proper marketing mechanism of pineapple will help in boosting the economy of the state.

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