Kerala smells a change, flowers bloom on farms

High demand, good returns trigger a revolution. Individuals and groups supported by civic bodies take to cultivation
Flower stalls in Kochi | (pics) A Sanesh
Flower stalls in Kochi | (pics) A Sanesh

KOCHI: Onam is the time when almost every individual in the state buys flowers to arrange floral carpets. But there is an increasing demand for them throughout the year as marigold, rose and other varieties are used to make garlands and bouquets for weddings and other functions.

The high demand and good returns have triggered a flower revolution in Kerala, with the state government’s ‘Njangalum Krishiyilekku’ project, which aimed at achieving self sufficiency in farm products, spurring it on.

Close on the heels of the success achieved by farmers last year, many more individuals and also groups supported by civic bodies, took to growing marigolds, chrysanthemums and globe amaranth in different parts of the state.

Unlike those in the neighbouring states, Kerala farmers are yet to go in for large-scale cultivation of ‘loose’ flowers like marigold, globe amaranth, jasmine and chrysanthemum. According to Agriculture Director Sunil, the cultivation was done under various schemes launched by panchayats and Krishi Bhavan. “The cultivation was done mostly by individuals and it happened in certain pockets,” said Sunil.

“Ernakulam district had the most land --- around 15 acres --- cultivating flowers besides Kadalundy in Kozhikode, Cherthala in Alappuzha and a panchayat in Kollam,” he said.

“Individual farmers and clusters formed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme also took to flower cultivation. They reaped a very good harvest for the second straight year,” said Horticulture Mission consultant Sreeja Rajeev.

“Aluva topped the list with the largest area (5.93 ha) while Nedumbassery and Kalamassery came a close second and third, respectively. Cultivation was also held in Elamkunnapuzha and Angamali (1.25 acres) and coastal areas of Cheranelloor (1.5 acres),” she said.

In Ernakulam, globe amaranth was cultivated at Mulanthuruthy and marigold in the rest of the areas. “The farmers at Karumalloor had invested only Rs 75,000 and earned around Rs 5 lakh,” said Sreeja. According to Aparna, an agriculture officer at Kadalundy, six groups cultivated flowers in the panchayat which extended all support including a small subsidy,” she said.

“One or two groups had cultivated flowers last year, but their success motivated others to follow suit,” said Aparna. The farmers, who were provided with saplings, could harvest flowers early and hence earn a tidy sum. “They sold marigolds for Rs 100 per kilogram before flowers from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka started coming in. Now, the flowers are being sold for Rs 50 per kg,” she said. Sreeja said flower cultivation had begun in Ernakulam way back in 2005.

“The state horticulture mission is providing subsidy for flower cultivation. In the case of loose flowers, the farmers are given Rs 16,000 per hectare. For cut flowers, a subsidy of Rs 40,000 is given per unit (a unit should have 1,000 plants) while it is Rs 20,000 for half units (500 plants),” she said.

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