Dharamshala: Farmers of the remote regions in hills are taking to cultivation of aromatic crops to revive agriculture as they are facing problems of non-remunerative returns and increasing incidences of crop losses owing to wild animals, monkeys and stray animal menace.
According to recent reports on cultivated area affected by monkeys and other animals in Himachal Pradesh alone is more than one lakh hectares with crop loss upto 55% and monetary loss more than 324 crores to agriculture and horticulture crops collectively.
To prevent these losses, CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur near Dharamshala in Himachal, is supporting the farmers by making efforts to revive the economy of the farming community and doubling their income through introduction of high value aromatic crops such as wild marigold, damask rose, lavender, rosemary, lemongrass and mushkbala under CSIR Aroma mission. These crops are good for cultivation in marginal and wasteland and are not being affected by wild and stray animals.
Dr Sanjay Kumar, Director, CSIR-IHBT, Palampur told PTI that aromatic crops are widely cultivated around the world due to its high-revenue earning essential oil which is utilized in agrochemical, food, flavoring, perfumery and pharmaceutical industry.
“The global essential oils market demand was 226.9 thousand tons in 2018 and projected to expand at a CAGR of 8.6% from 2019 to 2025. To promote cultivation of these aromatic crops among the farmers, a complete package of agro and processing technologies has been developed and executed in the farmers’ fields to help them realize the profits. Depending upon the quality and quantity of essential oil, farmers of hills can earn net profit of 0.8 to 1.5 lakhs per hectare annually,”said Dr Sanjay Kumar.
Dr Kumar said that the essential oil extracted from aromatic crops have huge demand in perfumery, flavour and fragrance industry in India and abroad.
Dr Kumar added “During the last two years, CSIR-IHBT has brought more than 500 hectare area under these crops. Cultivation of wild marigold has resulted in the production of 7.6 tonnes of essential oil in Himachal Pradesh alone with revenue generation of Rs. 5.56 crores benefitting 861 farmers.To uplift the cultivation of aromatic crops in order to double farmers’ income different small societies of progressive farmers have been formed in different states by CSIR-IHBT.
Nineteen processing units have been set up for these societies to empower the farmers for production of essential oils. With the efforts of CSIR-IHBT, Himachal Pradesh has become the largest producer of high quality wild marigold essential oil (4 t per annum) in India to meet the demand of perfume, flavouring, and condiment industries.”
The main wild marigold growing regions in Himachal are a Bhatiyat and Salooni in district Chamba, Seraj and Gogardhar in district Mandi and Banjar in district Kullu, Rampur in district Shimla , and Batote and Kishtwar in J&K and Bageshwar and Nainital in Uttarakhand.
The efforts by the progressive farmers of the region also got recognition in the form of Ultra International ICONIC Farmer Award for impactful contribution made towards cultivation and popularization of wild marigold crop to Mr. Vineet Sood, an entrepreneur and farmer from Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh who adopted the farming of wild marigold under the guidance of CSIR-IHBT.
The CSIR-IHBT team created awareness and imparted 133 trainings to 2900 farmers, women and unemployed youth of remote areas in hilly states of Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Ladakh, Sikkim, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand on cultivation and processing of aromatic crops.
Further, linkages between the farmers and guaranteed buyers were established for support to the farmers. The institute also has extensive varietal improvement programs in these crops, and quality planting material of these crops has been provided to farmers for commercial cultivation
CSIR-IHBT has paved the way for farmers of hilly regions who had left the farming due to wild and stray animal menace. Farmers have shown great interest in cultivation of these crops on a commercial scale.