Indian bank teller finds cash cow in Taiwanese guavas

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Kapil Sharma is recently pictured with the guava trees he grows in a village in the Indian state of Haryana, which surrounds the capital territory of Delhi on three sides.
Kapil Sharma is recently pictured with the guava trees he grows in a village in the Indian state of Haryana, which surrounds the capital territory of Delhi on three sides.

In November 2019, then Indian bank teller Kapil Sharma did not know he was going to share a bond with Taiwan because of its guavas.

Kapil Sharma (left) offers pieces of guavas to local residents in this recent photo.
Kapil Sharma (left) offers pieces of guavas to local residents in this recent photo.

Laid off from his job, Sharma found it difficult to find employment following the rapid spread of COVID-19 and so returned to his home village of Shahijadpur, near Sonipat City, north of New Delhi, where he turned his life around by deciding to farm Taiwanese guavas.

Unlike most local farmers who planted water-consuming crops like wheat or rice, Sharma first visited a neighboring biotech company before deciding what to grow. It was there that he saw 550 Taiwanese guava tree saplings, which appealed to him because they consume less water and a lack of stable water supply can be a problem during the long summer months in India, where the temperature is often above 40 degrees Celsius.

After purchasing the guava saplings at a cost of 160 rupees (US$1.94) per tree, the company provided Sharma with on-site training and he planted different types of guava trees in his one-acre orchard, including traditional guavas with white flesh and another variety with pink flesh.

Nearly eight months later, Sharma had his first harvest of “Taiwanese” guavas that made him about 55,000 rupees.

The pink flesh guavas sold particularly well. In fact, they were so popular that demand soon outstripped supply, Sharma told CNA.

This was just the beginning, he added.

With the second harvest Sharma earned more than 100,000 rupees, and at that point he decided he was not going back to the bank.

“Taiwanese guavas changed my life,” he said, adding that the story might have been different if he had chosen another crop.

Taiwanese guavas stand out from other varieties because they fall from the trees less easily, and the overripe ones which drop to the ground can still be used to make vinegar and be sold for a good price, Sharma explained, adding that now everyone is his village has heard about Taiwan guavas.

In addition to the rich soil, organic fertilizer was one of the secrets of the former bank teller’s guava success.

“I didn’t want my customers to take in the toxic stuff,” said Sharma, who used marigold flowers and plastic bottles to keep the fruit flies at bay.

Following the success of Taiwanese guavas, Sharma expanded his business by planting sugarcane and lemons and started keeping bees. His system for organic farming has made him a local role model.

In addition to featuring in the Indian media as a model Indian businessman, Sharma also became known to Rakesh Kumar, a local official at the Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, who told CNA he welcomed Taiwan’s experts instructing local farmers on how best to cultivate crops.

Sharma’s story became more widely known when Manoj Kumar Panigrahi, an Indian assistant professor who studied in Taiwan, wrote an article in both Chinese and English detailing the new farmer’s experience with Taiwanese guavas.

In the article, Panigrahi said Sharma asked him “to humbly share with the people of Taiwan that he (Sharma) is thankful for what Taiwan has given him indirectly and it changed his life.”

When asked whether he would like to visit Taiwan and learn more about the country’s farming techniques, Sharma did not hesitate.

“I want to go to Taiwan so much. A huge part of my success can be attributed to Taiwan. I want to go there and kiss the land,” Sharma told CNA.

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