ROURKELA: It seems the highly profitable sunflower farming is being ignored in Sundargarh despite the district’s immense potential for cultivation of the crop and heavy market demand for its oil.
With the gradual decline in sunflower production over the last 15 years, the district has now reduced the farming coverage of the oilseed crop to a meagre 440 hectare (ha) of land. That too only during the rabi crop season.
Taking 90 to 100 days, sunflower cultivation can be done thrice in a year with assured irrigation conditions. The soil and climatic conditions for the oilseed are perfect in Sundargarh.
Sources said for sunflower cultivation in rabi crop season-2022, the target was to cover 400 ha out of 11,500 ha kept for all oilseeds in the district. But the actual achievement of the sunflower crop was 255 ha. In 2023 kharif season, the target was to cover 13,530 ha with oilseeds, but sunflowers did not figure at all.
Chief district agriculture officer (CDAO) Harihar Nayak said earlier, vast areas were being covered with sunflower cultivation in Sundargarh. But gradually, farmers started ditching sunflowers for varied reasons. Chief among those reasons were the belief that sunflower crops reduced soil fertility, immense difficulty in marketing, lack of processing facilities and the crop needing extra care.
Nayak said sunflower farmers have increasingly shifted to other profitable crops like groundnut in the oilseed category and moong and biri in pulses. Cultivation of watermelon has also replaced a large chunk of sunflower areas.
Agriculture experts opined that soil fertility reduces only with regular cultivation of sunflower crops. The best practice is to grow sunflower on rotation basis with other crops. The scenario for sunflower cultivation has changed for better with the Centre and Odisha government laying thrust on production of the oilseed.
The experts further said the district agriculture authorities need to shed their escapist approach besides educating and motivating farmers to take up sunflower farming as it ensures high return while catering to the country’s oilseed demand.
The minimum support price (MSP) for sunflower oilseed is `6,760 per quintal. The per hectare production capacity in the district is 18 quintal against the cultivation cost of Rs 25,000-Rs 27,000. The experts said private players and NAFED are ready to buy sunflower oilseeds in Odisha. The need of the hour is to educate farmers on profit prospects, best cultivation practices to minimise risks and help establishing marketing link.