Pulwama- Farm fields of Pulwama district in south Kashmir have added a purple hue with a number of farmers taking up lavender cultivation to increase their income.

With rising demand due to its medicinal values and the prospect of better returns, growing lavender has become a preferred choice for many farmers in the area, around 25 kilometres from Srinagar, which is considered as the most fertile belt in Kashmir.

“We first extract oil and then do the value addition of the oil. There is a huge scope in lavender cultivation,” said Madiha Talat, a Srinagar-based agri entrepreneur.

Talat said lavender farming has also opened up opportunities of overseas trade.

“We can export the oil as it is. Its export market is huge in comparison to traditional crops which we grow. So, it is more profitable than the conventional crops. Its shelf life is long, its benefits are more,” she said.

Besides, lavender leaves can be used as tea and they can be processed as oil for use in medicines and aromatherapy.

“People in the foreign countries value that tea. Its oil is also used in aromatherapy which is liked world over. We use it in perfumery, cosmetics, said Talat, who has started her own brand Roohposh and uses the oil in her various skin care products.

Lavender cultivation has also created job opportunities for local youth including women.

Seerat Jan, a resident of Pulwama, who has been working in lavender fields for the past three years, said, “We pick up about one quintal (100 kilogramme) of the raw material daily. We earn about Rs 370 per day. There are about 30 to 35 women working here, and some men as well. We sustain our livelihood through this.”

Farmers also get help from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR IIM), which has set up a facility spread over 200 acres for conducting research on different types of aromatic crops.

“We conduct R&D and extension of different types of aromatic crops, and predominantly the focus is on lavender and rose,” said Shahid Rasool, senior scientist and incharge, CSIR IIIM at Bonoora station.

“Lavender is a signature crop which is a buzz word today because of its varied uses in the industry, which includes cosmetics, toiletries, fragrances, therapeutics, etc, Rasool said, adding that the weather of Jammu and Kashmir is conducive for the crop.

Also, the lavender plant is antimicrobial, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial and even anxiolytic, and these inherent characteristics help farmers save cost.

“We do not need to use or spray agro-chemicals on it for maintaining the good crop, health and yields. It is an ecologically viable crop for J&K… its essential oil sells at Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per kilogram,” Rasool said.

The crop requires mild summer and cold winter to thrive.

“We look up to this as a future crop because landholdings are shrinking for the farmers and natural resources are also getting limited, so considering all those aspects, the requirement of agri inputs are less in these crops, irrigation requirement is also very less, and these crops thrive in stress conditions,” the scientist said.

More than 100 people are working at Bonoora station to maintain the fields and the quantum of the plantation material generated from here increases every year, which in turn spurs the demand for manpower.

“The food habits of the people are changing, so is the choice of the crops. Nowadays, the concept of farming is not only about the choice of food, but also about how much money can be earned from these crops. Today, there is a growing consumer consciousness for the use of natural herbs to maintain good health or well-being,” Rasool said.   (PTI)


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