A relatively new entrant in the farming sector in Kashmir, lavender cultivation struggles to find a foothold, with the lack of proper market avenues proving detrimental to the lucrative agribusiness.
Ahmad, a 36-year-old farmer from the Kulgam district of south Kashmir, received
praise from the village Panchayat for adopting organic farming of lavender in 0.37
acres of his land, a practice they think would inspire others to follow and
earn a better livelihood.
Panchayat has assured lavender crop farmers that they would plan and help cultivate
the cash crop at the grassroots and community levels. They started a campaign
using Ahmad's project as a pilot advertisement for others to follow, besides
promising help from banks and other government offices. However, Ahmad remains
apprehensive of its prospects due to a lack of proper channels and markets to sell the produce. Besides, this
sector is still in its infancy, and many are reluctant to join in this experimental
fear losses that might occur if they cultivate lavender on a mass scale on
their farms and fields. Where will they sell their produce as there is no
functional flower mandi? Neither is the government providing them with a facility nor is there a viable plan to sell their produce in time," Ahmad
In 2014, while
preparing to be a civil servant, Ahmad was motivated to enter the
aromatic farming sector. As a student, he had learned about the scope of the fragrance
industry at the international level and thus decided to invest in this sector. "It was worth a shot, but the market remains a big concern.
If only the government works on the market management, then Kashmir will be a game-changer in lavender production in the whole of South Asia," he rallied.
provides the best climatic conditions conducive to lavender plantations as it
grows well in cold temperatures and moderately warm summers and needs one or
two irrigations during the rain-fed periods. This cash crop has a gestation period
of two years before reaching economic productivity. Lavender oil distilled from
flowering spikes possesses a high aroma that holds a commanding position in
perfumery, flavour and cosmetic industries. It is also used in anti-fungal,
anti-bacterial, carminative, sedative, anti-depressive medications and is effective
for burns and insect bites. According to scientists in Kashmir, the cosmetic, fragrance,
and medical industries need lavender, both for its oil and its dried flowers.
Even in these initial stages, with
no proper market support and middlemen are handling the trade informally, lavender has given better benefits to farmers than traditional crops such as maize. A
farmer earning around Rs 6,000 from maize cultivated on 0.125 acres of land is
now earning around Rs 30,000 on the same piece of land through lavender. The
farmers say that they can plant lavender on a large scale if a
government-backed market strategy could be devised.
the agro-climatic conditions of Kashmir are highly suitable for quality lavender
production, the government's intervention in the setting up of cooperatives
under contract farming for achieving the mission of the purple revolution will
change the whole scenario. Kashmir is full of karewas lands (wastelands)
where lavender can be grown in abundance," Bhat told 101Reporters.
However, lavender cultivation remains unorganised, and whatever the private growers produce, they sell through personal networks. The government has not yet intervened in providing market linkages and in fixing prices for lavender oil. According to the Floriculture department's official records, around 80.23 acres of land are under aromatic plantation by the growers, and around 346 litres of aromatic oil, including lavender oil, were produced in 2020.
Representational image: Women grinding lavender flowers in Ladakh (Picture credit - Flickr/sandeepachetan.com)
departments, namely, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-IIIM in
Srinagar and the Department of Agriculture, have their own lavender farms. The CSIR-IIIM
looks after 900 acres of lavender farms across Jammu & Kashmir, including
600 acres in the Kashmir Valley. They own 60 acres of these farms in Kashmir, while the
remaining 540 acres are owned by private growers, registered under the Aroma
Mission launched in 2016. They intend to cover
an area of 1500 hectares in the next two to three years. The Agriculture Department
also has its own lavender farm of 49.42 acres and has managed the production of
150 kg of lavender oil in 2020.
“Around 200 kg of oil was procured from our own farms during the last three years and sold at around Rs. 12,500 per kg,” an agricultural officer said
"Around 2500 kg of lavender oil is being exported to other
states like Mumbai, Delhi, MP where essential oil industries utilize it," said
Dr Shahid from CSIR-IIIM, the Senior
Scientist, Coordinator, Aroma Mission, J&K/Ladakh. The mission also connects
a few growers to the entrepreneurs as a small step towards developing market
linkages, but small farmers are unable to meet the enormous demands of the
need to set up cooperatives for the lavender farmers here to increase the
production and meet the industry demand. We have an edge in this sector as
Kashmir has a monopoly in terms of the area under lavender cultivation,"
said Dr Shahid.
CSIR-Aroma Mission, Parvaiz Qazi, a senior research scientist at IIIM,
Srinagar, the agro-scientists focus on the small and poor farmers whose lands
are barren with no irrigation option.
cultivating lavender can increase their income five to sixfold, which is around
more than Rs. 5 lakh for 2.47 acres," said Qazi to 101Reporters.
keeps hopes alive for sustained profits
this potential in view, Shahiq Nihal, 23, from Srinagar's Khanyar area,
recently decided to become an entrepreneur rather than hunting for a government
job. He converted his ancestral piece of land in Tangmarg — the village on the
way to the Gulmarg tourist spot — into a sprawling lavender farm, which also
saved the soil from erosion.
setting up the farm, Nihal received formal training on lavender farming from
CSIR-IIIM. He planted around 4,000 saplings of lavender. "These saplings
do not require much attention," he said. "It is completely organic
farming, using only cow dung as fertilizer."
Shahiq is satisfied with the market demand of lavender farming, the major
problem he faces is the non-availability of distillation centres to extract the
oil near his farm. He has not sold his produce of dried flowers yet, and no one
has approached him till now. "We can extract oil only in the distillation
units of CSIR-IIIM, which is far away from my farm. They should install
distillation machines in every KVK (Krishi Vigyan Kendra) Centre," he
"We have taken up the matter with the government for providing
distillation units of essential oil extraction under subsidy schemes. We demand
that it should be in every district so that farmers will have facilities in
their respective districts," said a Floriculture Officer, who wished to remain
anonymous. He also maintained that growers often complain that the flowers lose
aromatic quality during transportation to large distances for extraction.
problems, however, have not deterred Kashmir's new-age entrepreneurs from
dabbling in this experiment and taking calculated risks. Saquib Wani, a
31-year-old grower from Khrew Pampore, has been cultivating lavender since 2018
in his 6.91 acres of land. He now earns around Rs. 12 lakhs from lavender oil
and flowers. He also sells to a middleman in Pulwama, who ties up with the
consumers or companies outside.
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