Garlic, a traditional crop of Himachal Pradesh’s Sirmaur district, has turned out to be a cash crop in less than a decade to meet its growing demand both in domestic and international markets.
It is cultivated in 3,734 hectare in the district with an estimated annual production of 57,205 metric tonnes, says official data.
State Agriculture Virender Kanwar told IANS on Sunday that the garlic is sown as the sole crop in Sirmaur that helps in supplementing the income of 5,360 small and marginal farmers.
“More and more farmers are now opting for garlic cultivation owing to the favourable soil and climatic conditions and natural processing under the sunlight. The state is providing institutional support to encourage the farmers to go for garlic cultivation to boost their income,” he said.
“We are aiming to develop Sirmaur as a hub for the production and export of garlic and other spices,” he said.
Two garlic varieties — GHC-1 and Agrifound Parvati — both known for large sized cloves, are prominently sown in the district. The other cash crops in the district are capsicum, beans and ginger.
In 2013, about 1,554 hectares was covered under the garlic plantation, when the production was 23,000 metric tonnes.
Naresh Kumar, a garlic farmer near Rajgarh town, said the weather has been congenial for the crop throughout the season.
He said that the long shelf-life, unique aroma and taste with high clove oil content have made the hill garlic a hit among the buyers in metropolitan cities.
Despite the bumper production of garlic, it is sold between Rs 60 and Rs 70 per kg in the wholesale market and this price is remunerative as compared to the other cash crops, Kumar said.
Another grower Ravinder Sood said that with the ban on the dry Chinese garlic the local one has emerged as the most preferred one.
Garlic is grown on a large scale in three blocks of the district — Rajgarh, Pachhad and Sangrah, while in other three blocks, it is grown in small pockets.
The garlic crop has been identified under the centrally sponsored ‘One District, One Product’ scheme to promote the micro small and medium sector enterprises.
Agriculture experts say garlic is cultivated in well drained sandy and silt loam soil rich in organic matter. It is cultivated in a varying degree of altitude, but the elevation of 1,200 metre above mean sea level is ideal.
It thrives in cool and moist climate for bulb development and vegetative growth, while for maturity the climate must be warm and dry.
Its sowing season is October to November, while the harvesting starts in April.
“The government aims to strengthen the rural economy by increasing the cultivation areas with incentives like subsidy on garlic seed and organising awareness camps,” said Kanwar.
He said that the farmers are selling the produce in local markets like Nahan, Solan and Dadhau towns. For quite some time, traders from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala have also been directly purchasing the produce from growers.
As per the Agriculture Department, the cost of garlic cultivation is Rs 235,057 per hectare and the net income of Rs 988,943.
To boost its cultivation, the department is providing 50 per cent subsidy on garlic seed.
The department aims to set up food processing units to develop Sirmaur as the centre of garlic cultivation in northern India.
Himachal Pradesh, emerging as the leading producer of off-season vegetables like peas, cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, capsicum and potato among the hill states, annually earns more than Rs 2,500 crore from the cultivation of vegetables.
According to the latest Economic Survey report, 16.56 lakh tonnes of off-season vegetables were produced in 2019-20, as against 17.22 lakh tonnes in 2018-19.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])