The good quality of the produce is because of traditional organic methods
Byadagi chilli is a famous chilli variety grown mainly in North Karnataka. Named after a town called Byadagi, large areas in Karnataka are growing this chilli variety.
“The chilli is world renowned, similar to the Guntur chilli in Andhra Pradesh and is used as an important spicy ingredient for preparing foodstuffs and for extraction of a red coloured oil called Oleoresin.
“Manufacturers in U.S and European countries use this oil to makenail polish and lipstick as there is a good demand for it in their countries,” says Mr. P.K. Suresh, Deputy Director (Development), Spices Board, Hubli.
At present more than 80 per cent of farmers in Karnataka are growing this chilli crop. Almost all these farmers with small and marginal lands depend on the monsoon for their crops.
The most distinguishing feature among the farmers is that though most of them have small holdings, several of them grow their crop organically.
“Though many of them are illiterate and poor, they seem to realise that organic methods are safe for their lands and the environment”.
“In addition, their crops fetch a premium price in the market if organically grown,” says Mr. Suresh.
According to Mr. Basavaraj Belavatagi, an organic Byadagi chilli farmer of Halyal village in Dharwad district, Karnataka,
“Maintainingmannina arogya (soil fertility) is very important and this can be done only through savyava krishi (organic methods),” he says.
He has inherited the knowledge of the traditional organic methods such as using neem oil, sheep manure and vermicompost from his ancestors.
And is also doing mixed cropping by planting onion, cotton and pulses alongside his chilli crops.
In addition Mr. Basavaraj has also planted marigold plants along the bunds of his fields and says that these act as trap crops in controlling the pest menace and disease spread from neighbouring fields to his field.
Another farmer, Mr. Shanmukha M. Dyamakkanavar, says, “As I am dependent on the rains for growing my crops, maintaining the soil condition is very important. Organic inputs such as Panchagavya, vermicompost and cattle and sheep dung make my soil more rich in beneficial soil organisms and help me get a good yield."
“Sarkari gobbara (chemical fertilizers) and rasayanica keetanashaka (pesticides) make my soil nirjeeva (without beneficial organisms) and decrease the moisture retention capacity of my soil. As a result my soil develops cracks and becomes hard to plough,” he explains.
Almost all these Byadagi farmers depend extensively on farmyard manure, cattle and sheep manures, crops waste residues, neem cake, vermicompost and neem oil spray for cultivating their crops.”
“Though illiterate and financially poor, they are rich in their thinking and outlook towards their soil and environment. Many of them have learnt about these organic inputs from their fathers and grandfathers,” emphasises Mr. Suresh.
How and where do these farmers sell their produce?
A majority of the farmers market their produce in the Byadagi market in Haveri district.
During every season traders from all over India visit the market to buy the produce at a premium price as the quality of the produce is high compared to those grown from other areas.
Many of the traders attribute the good quality to “traditional organic cultivation or minimum use of fertilizers and pesticides,” says Mr. Suresh.
Some farmers also sell their produce directly to private firms. Because of the quality of the product they even get 25 per cent higher price than the prevailing market price.
The Spices Board has already given assistance to about 126 chilli farmers covering an area of 200 hectares in Dharwad and Gadag districts during the last three years and has helped them obtain organic certification.
Spices Board has already filed an application for getting geographical indication registration for Byadagi chillies.
For more details readers can contact Mr. P.K.Suresh, Spices Board, MIG-326, 10th Cross, Navanagar, Hubli-580 025, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 0836-2224155, mobile-9449804845.