A state-level workshop to promote commercial cultivation of spices and aromatic plants in Himachal Pradesh began on October 11 at the University. Over 150 farmers from all the 12 districts of the state are taking part in the two-day workshop which is being organised by the Department of Seed Science and Technology of the university under the MIDH project ‘Popularization of spice crops in Himachal Pradesh. The project has been funded by the Directorate of Arecanut and Spices Development, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
Welcoming the participants, Dr Narender Bharat, HOD Department of Seed Science and Technology informed that the project has been ongoing in the state since 2015-16. Till date over 30 panchayat level, four district level and 1 state-level farmers seminars have been organised and over 3000 farmers have benefitted. He informed that more than 7 quintals of planting material of Ginger, Garlic, Turmeric, coriander, Fenugreek, wild marigold, basil, etc. are being supplied annually by the university under this project.
Speaking on the occasion, Vice Chancellor Prof Rajeshwar Singh Chandel said that the area under garlic crop production in Sirmaur district has increased from 1600 hectares(2015-16) to 4000 hectares (2022-23) and production has increased from 26500 to 60650 MT during this period with over 5360 marginal and small farmers solely dependent on garlic for their income. This has been possible due to the transfer of latest technology to the farmers by the university and the line departments.
Speaking on increasing the area under different spices, he urged the farmers to cultivate 2-3 spice crops as per climatic conditions and encouraged groups of farmers to establish Farmer Producer Companies (FPC) which can increase their bargaining power in the market. He suggested that the university can also help these FPCs in value addition and branding which will not only help during the seasonal glut but also fetch handsome returns.
Professor Chandel exhorted the youth to form groups and collectively cultivate aromatic plants like wild marigold which can later be harvested for highly remunerative essential oils. He assured the technical support of the university to such farmer's groups. He also asked the farmers to support the university in the mass multiplication of seeds of new varieties of spices and aromatic plants with the university so that these can be provided to the farmers. Speaking about natural farming, he said that the university will be establishing a natural farming model to showcase different spices and aromatic plants with fruit crops.
During the workshop, several technical sessions on production techniques of spices, seed production and value addition, plant protection and a farmer-scientist interaction will be held.