Crop Diversification Only Increases, Not Crops, Your Income

By TheHindu on 09 Jun 2015
 
 The farmer, Mr. Girendra Sharma (second from left) of Bihar in front of his oil distillation unit.

M.J. PRABU

The farmer’s annual net income is more than Rs. 25,000 from lemon grass

Farmers are always trying to increase their yield and income from crops they raise.

Whatever crop they might cultivate, the bottom line is to invariably get a good price for their produce.

Farmers can increase their income either by intensifying the existing enterprises or can move towards diversification (by growing new crops), value addition, or successful marketing linkages to improve their economic level.

A good example of the strategy is provided by Mr. Girendra Sharma, a farmer of Dihri village, Patna, Bihar, who was previously cultivating rice and wheat in his eight acre land.

Medicinal plants

Now, he has diversified from the traditional crops and is growing medicinal plants such as lemon grass in 3.5 acres, Mentha in 1.5 acres, Java, Citronella and Sarpagandha in the rest of his land.

Farmers in the village who were earlier cultivating rice and wheat, after seeing the success of Mr. Sharma and the economic and market potential of the lemon grass crop, have opted for its cultivation.

Lemon grass

“Lemon grass cultivation is a boon for our farmers (in Bihar and Patna district in particular) because the crop grows well in less fertile and marginal lands, is drought resistant, and is not attacked by animals and insects or pests, as the crop is bitter in taste.

Also, selling the harvested produce (lemon grass oil) is not a problem because of its ever increasing demand and the large number of buyers,” said Mr. Ramadhar, Chairman, State Farmers Commission, Bihar.

Selling the aromatic oils, extracted from aromatic crops such as Mentha and lemon grass, is easier than selling some other crops, because of well developed markets in nearby states such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Most of the produce is being purchased by the traders located in these states, and so far no difficulty has been encountered by any of the farmers in selling the oil, he explained.

Some traders have also set up shops in Bihar, as the production of aromatic oils in the State rises at par with the neighbouring States such as Uttar Pradesh, which have had a 30 years’ lead over Bihar in initiating their cultivation.

According to Dr. K.M. Singh, Professor, Agriculture Economics, Bihar Veterinary College, Jagdeo, Bihar, Mr. Sharma was initiated into herbal and medicinal plants cultivation by the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (Atma) in Patna, which trained him and sent him on exposure-cum-learning visits to several places.

Hands-on experience

Mr. Sharma visited the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) Lucknow, Fragrance and Flavour Development Centre (FFDC), Kannauj, Horticultural and Agro-Forestry Research Programme (HARP), Ranchi, Centre for Entrepreneurship Development, Madhya Pradesh (CEDMAP), Bhopal, and Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (JNKVV), Jabalpur, to see and learn how these crops are being grown and also to learn the finer points of processing and marketing.

At present he earns a net return of about Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 30,000 a year from an acre from lemongrass cultivation, which is significantly higher than what he was getting from conventional cropping.

Distillation unit

He has also diversified into supply and setting up of field distillation units and has been instrumental in setting up 25 such units in different parts of the State. At present more than 500 farmers are pursuing lemon grass cultivation in Bihar.

For more information readers can contact Dr. K.M. Singh, Professor, Agriculture Economics, S.G. Institute of Dairy Technology, P.O., BVC, Jagdeo Path, Patna-800014, India, email: m.krishna.singh@gmail.com, mobile: 09431060157 and 09835241584, phone:0612-2292313.