India’s western state of Gujarat has changed the name of a locally-grown variety of dragon fruit to “lotus” fruit to avoid the original name’s association with China, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported on Wednesday.
“The name dragon fruit is not proper, and due to its name one thinks of China. So we have given it the name ‘Kamalam,'” Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani said at a press conference on January 20.
“Kamal” is the Hindi word for “lotus,” which is India’s national flower and the symbol of India’s ruling, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP has promoted “Self-Reliant India” initiatives over the past year meant to reduce India’s dependence on China for trade and manufacturing. BJP leader and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hails from Gujurat state, whose chief minister, Vijay Rupani, is himself a BJP member.
“Farmers say it [dragon fruit] looks like lotus and that is the reason we have named it ‘Kamalam,'” Rupani said on Wednesday when asked by reporters why his state had changed the fruit’s name. “There is nothing political behind renaming of the fruit [sic].”
Dragon fruit is the fruit of a cactus indigenous to Central and South America, though the cactus is grown across Asia. Vietnam is the world’s largest producer and exporter of dragon fruit. Gujurat last summer resolved to import less dragon fruit and instead invest more state resources in its local cultivation. Prime Minister Modi praised farmers in Gujarat’s Kutch district on July 26 for adopting innovative practices to grow dragon fruit locally despite the region’s arid climate. Kutch farmers’ dedication to growing dragon fruit despite the district’s adverse conditions represented “the very spirit of self-reliance,” Modi said in an interview with All India Radio.
“The farmers of Kutch have resolved that the country should not import dragon fruit, and this is what self-reliance is all about,” the prime minister added.
Shortly after the radio broadcast, Gujarat’s forestry department on August 6 “forwarded to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) a proposal on renaming the fruit ‘Kamalam,'” the Indian Express recalled on Thursday. In a letter to the ICAR, Gujarat’s forestry service said the name change would “boost awareness and expansion” of the fruit within the state “and contribute to reducing our import dependence in line with ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ [‘Self-Reliant India’ initiative].”
Modi’s administration has placed tariffs and non-tariff barriers on other countries’ exports of dragon fruit to India as part of its effort to promote domestic cultivation of the fruit. Dragon fruit’s popularity has increased across India in recent months, with several states outside of Gujarat now growing the fruit. Vietnam in October urged India to open its market to dragon fruit imports from the Southeast Asian country.