UDUPI: Shankarapura jasmine, cultivated in a small group of coastal villages, travels all the way to Dubai, London and New York. This pride of Udupi, which was accorded the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2008, with approval from the Central Government coming in 2013, is much in demand at weddings.
A grower of this variety has now successfully adopted an innovation — of ‘plastic mulching’ — which could dramatically increase yield of the crop. This method involves covering the soil with reams of plastic to prevent moisture evaporation and growth of weeds.
“I am expecting 30 to 50 per cent increase in the yield,” says Raghavendra Nayak, the progressive farmer from Shirva. He has around 100 plants on his 25 cents of land, and has completed the process of mulching for the entire crop.
“Mulching helps in plant growth,” he says. “Plastic mulches prevent direct evaporation of moisture from the soil, and limit water loss and soil erosion over the surface. They also stunt the growth of weeds and loss of plant nutrients. Even pest attacks are reduced drastically.”
He has spent `5,000 for the mulching but Raghavendra says that he has saved on the cost of
deweeding. “Many jasmine growers are asking me for advice on this,” he says. Official sources in the department of horticulture in Udupi tell Express that mulching is a good practice to increase yield, and many vegetable growers in the district have adopted it and witnessed increase in the yield.
For nearly a century, people of Shankarapura have been growing this jasmine and many women make their livelihood from it. Villages around Shankarapura such as Pangala, Kurlkal, Innanje and Shirva are also dependent on its cultivation. But now, an intervention through innovation had become necessary.
With erratic rains, harvest of Shankarapura jasmine had thinned and, therefore, the price per atte is gradually increasing. Atte is a local measurement with 800 flowers making one chendu and four chendus making one atte. The jasmine was sold at `60 (per atte) two weeks back, and growers suffered huge losses. Now, the prices have recovered to `420 per atte.
Marriages are usually planned in the first week of July in this temple town, so prices are set to skyrocket in August and may even touch `820 per atte. Besides rise in demand, there will also be a fall in supply around this time, with yield falling in September.
There is a network through which the flowers reach international markets. Agents collect flowers from producers daily after the rate is fixed at around 11 am every day. They are then reached to different places through buses and flights. Farmers are also wooing export agents to promote their produce on the Mangaluru-Bengaluru-London-New York route via Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) even while keeping the Mangaluru-Mumbai-Dubai-London route buzzing. The Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) at Mangaluru is also keen on promoting it as a major exportable commodity from the coastal region.
“Monsoon is the time farmers would like to send their produce abroad,” says Ramakrishna Sharma Bantakal, president of Udupi Mallige Belegaarara Sangha, adding that the government has to facilitate this.
Progressive farmer Raghavendra says that the flower business provides a supplementary income for many families, who were otherwise engaged in the more dangerous beedi-rolling job. The buds are plucked, strung together using fibrous peals of banana stalk or cotton thread and sold.
Growers of jasmine reuse the plastic sheets used for mulching. Every year they put the mulching during June month, just before the rains and remove it by September. They fold it and keep it inside to prevent them from the heat of the Sun. They use it again during the next rainy season. By two years, the quality of mulching sheets come down and they are disposed, says Raghavendra Nayak.
SYMBOL OF AMITY
While the buyers are mostly Hindus from Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts, the growers are largely Catholic Christian families. These fragrant flowers are used for worship in temples, both as garlands that adorn the deities and as prasadam given to the devotees. “These flowers stand for the amity between Hindus and Christians of this region,” says Hayavadhan Bhat, a temple priest in Udupi.(prakashsamaga @newindianexpress.com)