Sirmaur/Shimla, June 19:
Sirmaur, the leading garlic-producing district of Himachal Pradesh, has seen a bumper garlic this season. The sowing area is also increasing. And, for the first time, the bulk of the crop has found a market in south Indian cities and the farmers are getting remunerative returns.
Trade representatives said 60-70 percent of the crop, estimated at 25,500 tonnes, has been sold out.
“This time the traders from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala have purchased the maximum crop and that too directly from the farmers,” Deputy Director (Agriculture) Jagdish Thakur told IANS.
Earlier, more than 90 percent of the produce went to markets in the northern states.
Thakur said the harvesting of the crop, which began in May, has almost been completed.
Two garlic varieties – GHC-1 and Agrifound Parvati – both known for large sized cloves, were prominently sown in about 1,650 hectares in the district against 1,554 hectares last year, when the production was 23,000 tonnes.
Mohan Verma, a garlic farmer near Rajgarh town, said the weather was congenial for the crop throughout the season.
“Despite the bumper production of garlic, it was sold between Rs.70 to Rs.80 a kg in the wholesale market,” he said, adding that last year, the wholesale price was Rs.50 to Rs.60 a kg.
According to Verma, the growers earlier used to sell the crop in nearby markets like Solan and Dadhau. But this time, traders acquired the entire crop from the fields.
The garlic crop is sown in October and November and harvested from April to June.
“More and more farmers are now opting for garlic cultivation as they have started getting good prices. Last year its prices were high compared to other vegetables. The other reason for its increased cultivation is its long shelf-life,” district agriculture officer Pawan Kumar said.
In Sirmaur, garlic is grown mainly in Rajgarh, Pachhad, Sangrah and Haripurdhar areas. The other cash crops in the district are capsicum, beans and ginger.
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 ($414 million) from the cultivation of vegetables.
The state agriculture department says about 400,000 farmers, many of them with small landholdings, are engaged in off-season vegetable production.