Baripada: Soft drinks and a variety of pickles made from fruits and minor forest produce available in Similipal in Mayurbhanj district have turned out to be the favorites of tourists visiting the sanctuary.
This has provided livelihood opportunity to local residents, who earlier used to sell minor forest produce at throw-away prices in the absence of proper marking facilities.
Taking serious note of the unavailability of marking facilities for locally available forest produce, the Orissa Forestry Development Corporation (OFDC) had set up a fruit processing centre on the banks of river Khairi at Jashipur in 1982.
The centre has been producing a variety of soft drinks and pickles including a kind of special mango pickle that is prepared without oil and a pickle for diabetics, by engaging self-help groups.
The centre was set up by former Chief Minister Janaki Ballabh Patnaik with an aim of conserving minor forest produce like honey, resin and fruits available in Similipal and strengthening the economic condition of tribals residing in the sanctuary.
According to officials of the food processing centre, products of the centre maintain their quality for which tourists visiting Similipal find it more suitable for them than the products available in market.
Pure honey available in Similipal is admixed with soft drinks and fruit juices. Mixed pickle, sweet mango pickle, sugar and oil-free mango pickles, lemon pickle and chili pickle have over the years become popular among the tourists.
In summer, there is high demand for a variety of squash like raw mango squash, bel squash, ripe mango squash, gooseberry squash, lemon squash and blackberry squash because of their quality.
Another high-demand product of the centre is processed dry mango pieces, for which the centre has been awarded at the national level.
Initially, the annual turnover of the unit was Rs 1 lakh, but over the last few years, it has mounted to Rs 30 lakh per annum.
“The centre has got over 100 awards and certificates for participating in state and national-level exhibitions in the past due to its quality products,” said Manoranjan Satpathy, manager of the centre.
“We don’t compromise on quality of soft drinks and pickles while preparing them,” Satpathy added.
The manager said the state government is implementing various programmes and schemes to make tribals self-sufficient. SHGs will get good income generation opportunities through food processing if they are provided necessary infrastructure, tools, financial incentives, provision of training on managerial techniques and proper marketing facilities. PNN