Monday, January 23, 2012

Pomegranate, Pomegranate juice, Punica granatum, Granada, Grenade, Гранат

Pomegranate is a small tree or a large shrub , native of  Afghanistan . It was grown in gardens  for the last  5000 years or so. Pomegranates were grown  in the famous Hanging Gardens, and, according to some sources  the forbidden fruit   that was used to seduce Eve was in fact pomegranate. Also, it is highly unlikely that   actual  apple fruit  could be known to the very first authors of the Old Testament.
The fruit came to Egypt by 1600 BC from modern day Syria, and to Rome by 700 BC through  Carthage. Romans called it  " Punicum malum"  which means Phoenician apple. Regardless of where pomegranate  was introduced, it  was loved by virtually every nation and culture.  Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Islam , Buddhism, many extinct religions  have an important place  for pomegranate in their history.

pomegranates on the market
The tree can live over 200 years, but usually no more than 50 years, and it's productivity is declining  once the tree  is 20 years old or so. In it's prime the tree / large bush can give up to 50-60 kg pf pomegranates per year. It is a highly profitable fruit due to rising demand  in USA, Canada  and EU.
Even with local low prices , farmers in India and Afghanistan can make up to $ 5000 per hectare, which is significantly  ( by about 50 %) more than a farmer makes by growing  opium poppies. USA spent  at the very least $12 million supporting Afghanistan's pomegranate growing effort. I assume at least part of that money is going to build a $ 10 million juice factory in Kabul which is in construction now. Pomegranate processing  lines are generally expensive,  a 10 ton/hour  line costs about $3.2 million, and a 5 ton per hour  line cost  $2.7 million. It would be interesting to know how  potent is that factory so we can know how much US funds will be pocketed  this time.
pomegranate tree with juicy fruits
Be that as it may, long- term commitments, and lack of  roads, additional infrastructure,  are  halting  development of this industry in Afghanistan.  Presently Afghanistan makes less than $ 1 million annually in  export of  their top quality pomegranates, compare that with $1 + billion from opium.

Pomegranate juice is thought to diminish blood supply to cancerous cells,  thus delaying tumor progression and lengthen lives. For example, PSA  levels  of men who were drinking pomegranate juice took almost twice as long to reach  critical levels  compared to other  recovering men who did not drink it.
Pomegranate juice  is also thought to be helpful  with fighting heart disease and osteoarthritis. Loaded with antioxidants  it surely can't be too bad, however  studies are needed to be performed, and it is really surprising  that many companies spend  fortunes on advertising  instead  of actual  health studies ( perhaps they  know something that we don't already? ) In the very  recent study   of  pomegranate seed oil  it showed  no difference  with placebo  while treating  menopausal hot flashes.
open pomegranate
Average juice content  depends on variety , usually 42-46% from the total weight. Some varieties, that are very tasty but  not transportable, yield as much as 55% of  juice.

World production of pomegranate

This one is pretty hard to estimate, since  this tree does not take long  to bring the first fruit, and yields along with the acreage change very fast. There is also a lot of so  called wild  fruit , along with individual trees in small gardens. No governmental agency like FAO or USDA  , nobody at all really  keeps a track of pomegranates, despite of growing interest  and prices  for  pomegranate juice. I found a few reports from India and South Africa, but they were grossly incorrect.
I'd estimate that  about 3.2-3.35  million tonnes of pomegranates were produced in 2009 with India as a number one producer ( up to 900 000  tons )  and Iran being number one producer per capita  with about 10 kilograms of  pomegranate per each Persian;
Considering the low  quality of many orchards and a high % of wild fruit,  that fruit contained no more than 1 billion liters of juice, which comes to less than  5 fluid ounces of juice per each human in the world  as of 2009. Leftover peel is used in a variety of ways, from a high-quality animal feed  additive to leather treatment, medicine  production, etc.  Considering the low cost of pomegranates at the farm gate  in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan ( sometimes as low as $200 per ton , pretty much always less than $1000 ) pomegranate processing can be a good business even considering high costs of equipment / etc .
The amount of pomegranate that is available for international market is very small, possibly  less than 250 000 tonnes.  Top 3 producers-- India, Iran and China which produce more than  two thirds of all fruit in the world -- and  export less than  55 000 tonnes of pomegranate. Spain, Turkey and USA are important exporters.
POM wonderful is a key player on American market.
With globalism going wild even Peru, South Africa and Australia got themselves  a few orchards.

    Country        Production, tonnes,          Exports        Hectares          Year
1) India             900 000                           33400          122000           2009
2) Iran              790 000                            28000          65000             2009 
3) China            700 000                             ??                110 000         2009
4) Turkey           130 000                           15000          20000             2009
5) USA              120 000                           17 000         14000              2010
6) Iraq                100 000                            0                 25000              2010-2011
6) Spain               80000                           40000                ?
7) Syria                70 000                             ?                    ?
8) Azerbaijan       60 000                           15000            15000
9)Afghanistan       60 000                             1000           12000
10)Uzbekistan      35 000                           10 000          5000
11) Pakistan         30 000                             4500            6000

Egypt, Tunis, Morocco  and Israel are producing  about 30 000 tonnes each.
Other produces are Armenia. Georgia, Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan, Jordan, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, Peru , Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Malta, Portugal, Albania, Libya, Algiers, Macedonia, Croatia,  a few others.

pomegranate arils

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  1. Muy compleata la entrada, con abundante información sobre la granada. Hoy en mi país no es habitual el consumo ni se ven tantos árboles como hace unas décadas, recuerdo cuando era niño, las colectaba y comía con mis hermanos

  2. I don’t know how should I give you thanks! I am totally stunned by your article. You saved my time. Thanks a million for sharing this article.