Chiuri is very interesting tree of Nepal. It has gained fame in recent years. Mainly because of the socio economic contribution it can make in livelihood of stakeholders.
The Chiuri tree is member of Sapotaceae family in plant kingdom. It is a medium sized tree which grows mainly in the sub-Himalayan tracts on steep slopes, ravines and cliffs at an altitude of 400 to 1400 meters from west to east of Nepal. Its botanical name is Diploknema butvracea. The highest density of tree is believed in mid western region of Nepal.
Local folks collect Chiuri fruits during July – August when monsoon is at its peak. They pick the ripe fruits from ground or climb trees at times. The fruit is very sweet, juicy and tender in taste. Children love it. During this time, they collect Chiuri fruits and sell on the roadsides to travelers.
The tree serves many other purposes besides giving delicious fruit. Villagers in households collect seeds of Chiuri and expel fatty oils from it. The oil takes approx 12 hours to solidify (Practical Action). They store it and use for cooking their food. The oil is known as Chiuri Ghee widely. Also, many villagers produce it in small quantities and sell it in local market. Unfortunately, they use marginal quantity of seeds for this. Most of the seeds are disposed and go waste.
Additionally, the question is does this tree or fruit or ghee can serve bigger goals? Or mere seasonal use of it is sufficient. There is definitely wider picture of it.
The fatty oil produced from Chiuri seeds has different use in food and cosmetic industry. The residue left after extraction of fatty oil is rich in nutrient. It is organic manure for fields.
Ironically, Nepal has approximately 10.8 million trees of Chiuri geographically distributed from Darchula, Baitadi and Dadeldhura districts in the far-west to Dhankuta and Ilam district in the east (Micro Enterprise Development Programme (MEDEP), December 2010). The country has potential to produce 37,245 MT Chiuri ghee (Micro Enterprise Development Programme (MEDEP), December 2010).
Why not optimized?
Irrespective of all the studies, there is no quality industrial production of Chiuri ghee. Apparently, there are few co-operatives or individuals producing it. The problem is either their production lack quality or they use traditional extraction method resulting in low production.
The product has proven qualities and industrial uses still it fails to attract loyal market or buyers. The primary reason is production quality and quantity both. When any product is marketed as ingredient for industrial consumption, the buyer needs consistent supply with a standard quality. Chiuri producers of Nepal are not in the position to offer it for now. Also, the ingredient has to be cheap to interest’s buyers. Cheap enough to meet their production cost.
Similarly, most of the Non Timber Forest Products (NTFP) of Nepal posses is high operating cost. Due to high operation cost or production cost, the stakeholders are bound to quote high prices in the market. This has narrowed down the opportunities for them. The commodities of Nepal are losing competitive edge nowadays because of this.
If commercialized, collection of Chiuri seeds will bring new dawn for many collectors. They will be able to collect the seeds during their leisure time and earn from source which is going waste at present. The economic benefit will be reaped by the poor and underprivileged. Unfortunately, to live this dream heavy investment is required.
The product is in very nascent stage. It needs introduction of technology for quality extraction, research for knowledge management, market development and off course aggressive marketing. As a result, no private sector can risk such amount and thrive in market.