Grading of Makhana
Makhana – The super Food
Makhana, also known as Fox nut or Gorgon nut has gained a lot of popularity globally. Earlier used only in traditional household or used for religious purposes, Makhana has become a choice of the rich and fitness conscious society. Known for many health benefits, it is packed with high protein, potassium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, fibre, magnesium and carbohydrates. High in demand, there has been a spurt in the usage of Makhana for medicinal purposes and is believed to be helping in reducing high blood pressure, diabetes, indigestion, diarrhoea.
Not just limited to snack and medicinal arena, Makhana nuts can be used in cosmetic products as well. Growing need of Makhana has put immense pressure on farmers, traders, retailers to ensure provision of high quality Makhana. Across world, once Makhana or Fox Nut is produced, it is subjected to highest level of testing in terms of size, quality etc.
Using marketing, attractive packaging, manufacturers are making Makhana a king of snacks category globally. This has made the quality as one of the topmost parameters for the retailers across world. Quality and size of Makhana is strictly inspected by the retailers to ensure they provide the best to its consumers. Hence, grading makhana nuts has become one of pertinent steps for manufacturers.
In India, Bihar is known for cultivating 92% of the production of Makhana in the world. Tropical climate of India provides a good cultivation condition for Makhana. Traditional methods are now being replaced by new and latest technology for cultivation and reducing the time and supply chain. Apart from India, countries like South Korea, China, Nepal are also cultivating the super crop.
In the past few years, there has been an increase in number of players in the retail industry. Brand like ‘Too Yumm’ has become a huge success among the Urban markets for Makhana as it is endorsed by The Indian Cricket Captain, Virat Kohli.
With the consumers changing lifestyles, needs, tastes and preferences, retailers are looking for options of all kinds to outdo each other. Earlier, only limited kinds of makhana were available in the whole market. Today, there are many manufacturers offering different sizes, flavours, packaging to woo the customers. Retailers are offering superlative quality of Makhana pops to the global markets by providing flavours that match their taste buds for example Peri-Peri, Herb n cheese, Barbeque etc.
Spoilt for choices, customers too are not ready to compromise on taste or price and are willing to give extra money for a good quality product. Hence, retailers want to make the whole process of cultivation, grading, cleaning, storing very less complicate and cost effective by including both manual and mechanized systems.
Grading the Seeds of Makhana
Makhana being a seasonal crop poses a big problem for manufacturers to have a proper stock to meet the continuous and increasing market needs and demands. The whole process of post-harvesting requires a lot of manual labour by farmers and others to provide high quality Makhana. However, the need of the hour is mechanical processes that make the work like grading very easy and less cumbersome.
After the harvesting of Makhana seeds, the seeds are graded as per size to maintain the quality, they are then processed further, and finally distributed to various retailer across the country and also for exports are the steps that are followed. Grading is a vital step in the whole process as it ensures quality, size, uniformity are maintained before packing of Makhana.
Grading of Seeds is a very important step for farmers to separate the different sizes, shapes and quality of seeds. The real work for farmers starts once the harvesting of the crop is done. They spend a lot of time in grading of the seeds to differentiate in quality and sizes of seeds. Traditionally, farmers perform Grading manually which could be a long, cumbersome process. It often has mix up of seeds as well due to human errors.
Makhana seeds are sorted by using special grading equipment and machines, which further helps in reducing the errors and the time consumed is less making it the best option for farmers. Grading process can be done by using different sizes of mesh sieves. Number of sieves are used for grading process by farmers.
All Makhana seeds after gradation are stored separately. They are cleaned and stored for further distribution to wholesalers and traders.
Once the grading of Makhana seeds is done, it goes through the process of cleaning the seeds by putting the seeds in to a container called ‘Gaanja’. After the Makhana is cleaned properly, they are packed into bags. Further the process of storing the seeds takes place.
Challenges of Grading for Farmers
After the harvesting of Makhana is done, it requires sizing, grading, cleaning, storing and processing. Agricultural experts are looking for better mechanised options to help farmers for better efficiency of the whole process both pre harvesting and post harvesting. Grading helps the manufacturers and traders to get the best quality Makhana Pops and seeds. However, this poses as a challenge for farmers who put in a lot of time and efforts in cultivation of Makhana seeds and pops.
Grading is an important process for retailers for providing high quality Makhana to its customer base. However, when it comes to farmers, they prefer to sometimes skip this step. The reason is painful long manual process for the farmers. They sometimes mix the different quality seeds of Makhana as it saves their efforts and time.
Another issue for farmers vis-a-vis Grading is that wholesalers and traders buy only high quality seeds and Makhana by the process of grading. Due to this, the farmers are left with only low quality seeds and Makhana as no one wants to buy them. This makes the left over Makhana to go wasted or forces them to sell at loss. This is an issue that needs to be addressed as farmers are already struggling with making their ends meet as this is their only way of earning livelihood.
To help out the farmers from challenges faced due to grading of Makhana, Governments and Agricultural departments are researching for technology that would be less expensive and increases efficiency as well. Also, Government is looking for ways to utilize the left over low quality Makhana with the farmers to help them cut down on their losses and hard work.