Aroma of the purple revolution

Lavender farming, was introduced in Jammu and Kashmir in 2007 as an experiment to help farmers turn to more profitable crops, is yielding revolutionary results now, reports Fayaz Wani.
Lavender farming. ( File Photo)
Lavender farming. ( File Photo)

JAMMU & KASHMIR: Kashmir is moving towards “purple revolution” as the farmers are slowly switching over from the traditional crops to more rewarding farming of lavender, a purple blossomed aromatic shrub. Since 2007 onwards, lavender farming has been introduced in Kashmir and parts of Jammu. It is now picking up revolutionary proportions. Lavender farming is now done in all of J&K’s 20 districts. Kathua, Udhampur, Doda, Ramban, Kishtwar, Rajouri, Srinagar, Pulwama, Kupwara, Bandipora, Budgam, Ganderbal, Anantnag, Kulgam and Baramulla districts, in particular, have made significant headway in this direction.

Lavender farming was launched as ‘Aroma Mission’ of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, under the Ministry of Science and Technology. After the success of Phase I, the CSIR has started Phase-II, which will include over 45,000 skilled human resources and help over 75,000 families. According to officials, the climate of J&K is highly conducive for lavender cultivation as this plant can grow in cold temperatures and moderate summers.

Lavender is used for oil extraction which is then used in making soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, room fresheners, medicines, etc. The lavender plant does not require a lot of water and has a low risk of pests or other animals that destroy crops. A single lavender plant bears flowers for 15 years, needs low maintenance and can be used from the second year of plantation.

The lavender farming is seen as more profitable as compared to the traditional crops and the agriculture department has been conducting awareness campaigns for farmers to inform them about the profitability of this plant. Besides, free-of-cost lavender plants were distributed among the farmers interested in lavender farming by the agriculture department. They were also apprised about the know-how of the crop and its yield.

According to director of the Department of Agriculture Production and Farmers Welfare Kashmir, Choudhary Mohammad Iqbal, around 8 lakh lavender plants were given to 500 farmers free of cost and 20 hectares of land was used for cultivation till March 2020. “Technical support and essential oil distillation facilities are also being provided to farmers,” he said.

Due to the support by the government, farmers have begun to switch over from traditional crops, including fruits, to lavender production in Anantnag, Pulwama, Budgam, Ganderbal and Kupwara districts.Iqbal said that panchayats have started helping lavender farmers to increase lavender cultivation and effectively their income. “Compared to traditional crops, earnings from lavender farming have been much more profitable. About 1 kanal of land under maize cultivation generates income of `6,000 and the same area generates `30,000 with lavender farming,” he said.

Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Mir from Budgam said he started the lavender farming in 2015 and the lavender plants are now spread over 50 kanals of his farm. He switched over from traditional crops to lavender after he came to know about aroma farming.

Mir said he would have further expanded lavender farming but marketing constraints prevented him. “I have also engaged some persons in producing the lavender products including hair oil, message, etc. We could have produced some more items but we don’t have distillery machinery,” he said. “I sell the produce directly to traders in Delhi and other parts of the country”. Aijaz Ahmad from Pulwama has converted his 50 kanals of land into a lavender farm since 2015. “I belonged to the pharmacy field but was interested in aroma cultivation. I’ve installed my own distillation plant and many lavender growers from the Valley sell their produce to me,” he said.

Training under Aroma mission
Aroma Mission is drawing entrepreneurs and farmers from all across India. CSIR assisted in the cultivation of 6,000 hectares of land in 46 aspirational districts during Phase I. In addition, 44,000 employees were trained.

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