Medicinal plants finding favour with UP farmers
Uttar Pradesh government is looking at encouraging farmers to take up farming of medicinal and aromatic plants to supplement their income and partly hedge their positions from seasonal fluctuations of price, demand and rainfall conditions. It has prepared an ‘exhaustive plan’ in this regard
Lucknow / June 22, 2021
‘Out of the box’ is not merely a corporate jargon but has application in other aspects of life and society too, including farming.
Experts have long been suggesting that diversification of agriculture is imperative not only for its long term sustainability but preserving food security and attracting the youth to take up farming as a profession.
However, the lure of the Indian farmers towards the staple kharif and rabi crops, chiefly paddy and wheat apart from sugarcane, coupled with the sociopolitical element of gradual increase in the minimum support prices (MSP) year after year, has resulted in a plausibly skewed food grain production pattern, even during the glut seasons even as the Food Corporation of India (FCI) storage houses are brimming throughout the year owing to lack of space.
Additionally, these crops need a humongous amount of water and during weak monsoons, their production is adversely affected, while they are a massive drain on the groundwater levels too.
In this context, the Uttar Pradesh government is looking at encouraging farmers to take up farming of medicinal and aromatic plants to supplement their income and partly hedge their positions from seasonal fluctuations of price, demand and rainfall conditions.
The UP government has prepared an ‘exhaustive plan’ in this regard. After a pilot project in the arid Bundelkhand region, efforts have been intensified to provide similar benefits to the farmers of Purvanchal or Eastern UP.
Now, the government is trying to promote medicinal plants farming in other districts like Meerut, Mathura and Firozabad. It is widely accepted that medicinal plants cut down on investment and maximise farm income in a short span of time.
According to officials, as a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Self-Reliant India’ mission, the Yogi Adityanath government is boosting medicinal farming, which has a lucrative and largely insulated forward industry linkage of food processing, consumer products and pharma sectors.
The UP horticulture department is facilitating medicinal farming by hand-holding farmers and providing them the basic and technical knowhow about the new concept, which promises higher per unit return.
The concept has started to gain traction in Gorakhpur, where farmers have shown keen interest in growing Tulsi, Aloe vera, Ashwagandha, Brahmi, Shatavari, Kalmegh and Sarpagandha, and are preparing nurseries for these medicinal and aromatic plants.
Dr V B Dwivedi, the nodal officer of UP AYUSH Mission and state horticulture and food processing joint director, medicinal cultivation has so far benefitted more than 15,000 farmers up from 9,705 earlier. This count is expected to go up.
Besides, the UP government is encouraging farmers to diversify cultivation in order to enhance rural incomes. The state has been keenly promoting the cultivation of indigenous crops and coarse grains, including ‘kala namak’, maize, millets etc to encash the new fad among the health conscious consumers, especially youth, for wholesome and nutritious varieties of food items on their table.
(Virendra Singh Rawat is a Lucknow based journalist, who writes on contemporary issues of industry, economy, agriculture, infrastructure, budget etc)