AGRICULTURAL PROSPECTS: Queen of orchids for queen of hills – one lakh cymbidiums to bloom in mirik by 2012 – India’s richest bio-diversity and incompetent and corrupt Bengal says state not viable ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, Aug. 26: Around one lakh plants of cymbidium, known as the queen of orchids, are set to bloom in Mirik in two years, thanks to an export-oriented project by a private company.
The biggest venture of orchid cultivation in the northeastern part of India was initiated by Darjeeling Gardens Private Limited on a two-acre plot at Rato Mate busty in Mirik with the help of 10 small farmers.
“Cymbidiums require low temperature and high humidity, a rare combination that is difficult to be found in other hill towns. Mirik valley provides the optimum requirement of temperature and humidity and is the best place to cultivate cymbidium. Floriculturists in Mirik were growing orchids on a smaller scale. But we have been growing one lakh cymbidiums at our nursery since May last year with the latest technical knowhow,” said Rajesh Chowdhury, the director of Darjeeling Garden.
The ultimate aim of the project is to enable small growers to start large-scale production of the cymbidium to export the flower.
“Although we have engaged 10 local cultivators, technical assistance was provided to more than 100 small farmers. In case we start exporting orchids, we need a regular supply, say 5,000 to 10,000 sticks a week. As the yield in our nursery will not be sufficient to meet consistent demands, we plan to engage the farmers and buy orchids from them so that exports can be continued without any shortage in the supply. The farmers, too, will be apprised of the demand, the desirable yield and the prices their produce would fetch in international markets,” said Chowdhury.
The cymbidium, the most popular orchid worldwide, is beautiful and comes in a variety of colours like white, green, pink, red and mixed shades of yellow and red, and pink and white.
Grown in countries like Australia, New Zealand and Holland, the cymbidium is known to have a long vase life ranging from two to three weeks. The longer vase life gives the flower high ornamental value.
Darjeeling Gardens signed a memorandum of understanding with the Centre For Agro-Business and Floriculture Management (COAFM) of North Bengal University in December to provide technical assistance to the nursery.
Ranadhir Chakraborty, the project manager of the COAFM, said cymbidiums grown in Mirik were of export quality. “However, as the plants are grown on small scale, enough flowers are not available for the export. Darjeeling Gardens is the first grower to start the mass cultivation of the cymbidium in the northeastern part of India. We give the nursery technical assistance in terms of monitoring nutrition requirements, light, temperature, humidity control and pest control,” he added.
Chakraborty said the cymbidiums had a thriving market in Japan, Dubai and European countries for ornamental purpose.
Ten poly-houses have been erected at Rato Mate, 52km from here, to grow the orchids under conditions prescribed by the COAFM.
The saplings are mostly of the Australian and New Zealand variety of cymbidiums and they were purchased from a tissue production centre in Gurgaon. With a gestation period of three-years, the orchids are expected to be in full bloom by October 2012.
“We have already planted over 75, 0000 saplings and 25,000 more will be planted in the coming month. Japan has the biggest market in the world for orchids and we are in talks with a floriculture company there for the exports. We are trying to develop market linkages in Mumbai and Bangalore where the cymbidium is in demand. At present, the cymbidiums fetch Rs 150 to Rs 200 per stick in the international market and less than Rs 100 in the domestic market,” said Chowdhury.
Juicy turn to farmers’ fortunes – could be expanded to cover Dooars and the Terai ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Malda, Aug. 26: More and more farmers are turning to the cultivation of pineapple in Malda to shrug off its long-standing reputation for mangoes and also to bring “better” days.
The farmers claim that soon they will outdo other parts of the state where the spiny fruit is grown.
The initiative to grow pineapple began about eight years ago when Anil Chandra Sarkar, a teacher in a Bamungola school and a member of the Vigyan Mancha, an NGO, decided to introduce the farming of the fruit to relatively dry areas of Bamungola, Habibpur, Old Malda and Gajole.
“At a meeting of the Mancha in February 2002, I said if we could start growing pineapple in these areas, the farmers would see better days,” Sarkar said.
Three years later, Sarkar, along with one of his students Nabadwip Debnath, visited Siliguri to look into the method of pineapple farming. They procured 28,000 pineapple seedlings from Siliguri and cultivated the fruit using the knowledge of the farmers there on an acre owned by Debnath in Bamungola as pilot project.
“I did not realise that it would be such a big success. We had two crops in 18 months. And I started selling seedlings to the farmers from the first year. The farmers on seeing my success came forward to buy them,” Debnath said.
Today, Garapara village in Bamungola is called Anaraspara (the Bengali word for pineapple). Gradually the practice spread to Habibpur and Old Malda.
Although the horticulture department does not have any figure in the district, sources said about four lakh pineapples were grown in two seasons — in July and November — a year on nearly 100 acres in the district. About 25 farmers are engaged in the farming.
Dulal Sarkar owns a plot adjacent to that of Debnath’s and till about five years ago he used to grow only paddy. “By cultivating pineapple my life has changed. I earn Rs 30,000 per bigha and I make Rs 60,000 a year,” Sarkar said.
The farmers said very little of the produce was consumed locally. “Trucks come and take the fruit away to Delhi, Maharashtra and Calcutta,” a farmer said.
An official of the district horticulture department, Priyaranjan Panigrahi, said the soil of the four blocks were similar to that of Siliguri and North Dinajpur where pineapple is grown. “The cultivation of pineapple is gradually increasing and the quality is also good. We are happy that the economy in these relatively arid areas is changing for the good,” he said.
But, as of now, the horticulture department has no estimate of the area under pineapple cultivation in the district. “We are yet to conduct a survey,” the official said.