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Climate Change Takes Rajasthan's Favourite Staple 'Desert Berry' Off Menu

Ker and Sangri, also known as the "desert berry", is integral to any Rajasthani thaali. It grows on the Khejri tree and on the Ker plant.

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Climate Change

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A fruit staple to Rajasthan that grows in the state's western arid regions is under threat from unusual weather phenomena, which experts say could be linked to climate change.

Ker and Sangri, also known as the "desert berry", is integral to any Rajasthani thaali. It grows on the Khejri tree and on the Ker plant.

The Khejri tree is considered a lifeline of the desert; it is worshipped by locals because the tree can still grow where there is no water and its fruit is packed with nutrition.

But this year's unusual rainfall in Rajasthan has affected the tree's growth.

Rajasthan's western districts recorded 39.4 mm rainfall in March, April and May, when it should be 13.8 mm. The weather office said the rainfall was 185 per cent above normal.

The temperature, too, has been relatively cool in March - 3 degree Celsius below normal - which has affected the growth of the Khejri tree and the desert berry.

High moisture in the air and unusual rain has led to the growth of fungus and pests and they have infected the Khejri tree.

This tree thrives in dry and arid weather; its fruit is picked in April and May and can be stored for the whole year.

The pests and fungus have infected not only the tree's bark but also the leaves and shoots.

"Sangri growth this time has fallen by 60-70 per cent due to unusual rain and climate change. The temperature was cool when it should have been hot as pests and fungus would die of heat. But they festered and started attacking the Khejri tree," said MR Baloch, director of Arid Research Zone, Jodhpur.

Khejri's fruit, Sangri, when combined with Ker or the desert berry, makes a dish integral to Rajasthani cuisine, which is also a staple of the desert people.

Steeped in buttermilk overnight, Sangri and Ker are stir fried in mustard oil with spices. The fruit's price has sharply increased this year and it has vanished from menus in Rajasthan restaurants.

"Ker-Sangri is the king of vegetables. But they are in short supply, so we have had to remove them from our menus," said Anand Bhati, owner of Pokhar restaurant in Jodhpur.

Farmers who would earn extra income from collecting the fruit of the Khejri tree and selling them in the market are also disappointed.

"We have some 15,000 trees in our village. None are bearing fruit this year. Earlier, we would sell them for ₹ 700 per kilogram and make some extra money," said Mool Singh, a farmer from Shergarh in Jodhpur.

Ker-Sangri prices have doubled from ₹ 1,500 to ₹ 3,000 per kg this year.

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