Here's a happy farm story from a small Jammu village
Lavender farmers of Jammu
“I planted the crop for the first time in 2000 and the returns are four times what I used to get for maize,” he says.
Lavender flowers are harvested and processed to obtain oil, dry flowers and other valueadded products.
The rise of herbs
He points to another big advantage these crops give to growers. “We don’t have to water the herbs too much or spray fertilisers on it,” he says. This has allowed farming in areas where even one crop a year was tough on account of poor rainfall. Dabur works with farmers to grow medicinal plants like shankhapushpi in Barmer, Rajasthan.
An average a farmer can earn Rs 60,000 per acre by growing herbs, provided there’d assured demand.
Many of the herbs have exotic names and pretty much all the numbers are remarkable. Ateesh, kuth, kutki, karanja, kapikachhu, shankhapushpi… these herbs and aromatic plants mean little to the urban consumer but represent life-changing income opportunities for some farmers.
Patanjali’s CEO Acharya Balkrishna says the company is “helping farmers cultivate herbs on 40,000 acre”. Kutki, shatavari, and chirayata are on top of his list of best earners. And India has plenty of potential to grow this business, he says, because it is way behind China in production and there’s high global and domestic demand.
Big players are getting more involved. In 2017-18, Dabur, under its Bio-Resources Development programme, saw an increase of 25% in area under cultivation of medicinal herbs —more than 5,000 acres across 19 states, involving 2,400 farmer families, according to Dabur India CSR head A Sudhakar. Himalaya Drug Company works with over 800 farmers, covering over 3,500 acres.
Even more remarkable are farmers’ returns. A farmer growing ateesh herb, largely used in ayurvedic medicine, in the higher reaches of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh may easily get Rs 2.5-3 lakh per acre. A lavender farmer may get Rs 1.2-1.5 lakh returns per acre.
The Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine in Jammu has been promoting lavender and aromatic plants like rosemary, geranium and clary sage. “Demand for oils from these plants is coming from domestic companies dealing in perfumery and cosmetics,” says Ram Vishwakarma, director, IIIM.