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Lavender growers in J&K urge use of technology to boost domestic industry

Lavender growers in the mountainous districts of Doda and Kishtwar have appealed to the Jammu and Kashmir administration to frame policies and introduce technology to augment lavender flower production in the hilly region to give the domestic industry a boost.
Lavender is believed to be a hard crop and grown for the production of its essential oil, which comes from the distillation of the flower spikes of certain lavender species.
The oil has cosmetic uses and is believed to have some medicinal uses as well.
The farmers, who are growing lavender under the Union Government’s Aroma Mission, feels that by adopting farming of unconventional aromatic plants, they are on the path of fulfilling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of “Atmanirbhar Bharat”.
Being a perennial flower, lavender as per experts can be grown once in a year and bear flowers for 12 to 15 years.
“Lavender flowers take around 8 to 12 months to bloom fully and Kishtwar, Doda regions are its best producers because of cold climatic conditions which are must for this crop,” an expert from J&K Floriculture Department here told.
He said that once planted, it becomes bushy in few months and its cuttings can further be used in growing the crop, he said adding, “Lavender is being imported in India from Europe but it is naturally grown in these hilly terrains and needs attention of the government.”
A native crop of Europe, lavender was introduced by Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine in the temperate regions of the Jammu division under CSIR-Aroma Mission in 2018 and tried to popularize it in Doda, Kishtwar and Rajouri districts.
“We are producing lavender oil in locally made refineries through distillation process, which is being sold at Rs 9000 to 10,000 per kg in the market,” he said and expressed that left out water during in entire process goes waste, which is of high use.
Products like lavender soap, incense sticks (agarbatti), floor disinfectants, room fresheners, can be produced out of this “waste water”, he expressed and said, “but, we do not have a technology to set up domestic industries and make use of this water, which can generate revenue and also the employment to many.”
According to experts, unlike many other seasonal crops, producers can dry lavender for ornamental flower arrangements, wands, sachets or potpourri, or transform the dried flowers into value-added products such as essential oils, tinctures, soaps or lotions.
“It is also useful in baking and makes delicious honey,” the expert expressed.
In Doda, 26 hectares and in Kishtwar around five hectares of land is under lavender cultivation, he said.
The experts, however, appealed to the government to frame an exclusive policy on this crop so that homemade industry can be established and added, “the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already appealed to the countrymen for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and by introducing technology, we can become self dependent and self reliant.”
“The products made out of ‘hydro water’ of lavender can be exported across the country and also within the state as lakhs of Vaishno Devi pilgrims visit Katra, other tourist destinations in Jammu and Kashmir and they can carry these products along,” he asserted.
“The lavender growers are ready to cultivate the crop but not getting the planting material as required,” he said, adding that IIIM scientists and experts visit to Kishtwar and Doda, provide plating material free of cost but not as per the demand.
“The small grower eye immediate return but they have to wait for long as planting material is not available,” he said adding that if technology is introduced, small scale industries are set up, lavender oil can be exported globally and crores can be earned.
“We have rich potential of growing lavender within J&K but we are not making its optimum use,” he said and added that the government should give lavender saplings free of cost to the growers, so that they generate income and increase the cultivation manifold.
Machail Mata Yatra is famous in Kishtwar and once COVID period will be over, it will resume, he said and suggested that if by coming months, government comes up with a policy and set up homemade industry, the products can become first choice for the pilgrims and the tourists.
The expert, who has researched on Lavender, expressed, “the beauty of this crop is that it is perennial and once grown, will grow for years, even on abandoned land but all required is immediate focus of the government.”
Department of Floriculture is making people aware about its cultivation since 2011 and two agencies are involved in it including Jammu and Kashmir IIIM Jammu through CSIR Aroma Mission and Department of Floriculture under MIDH CSS scheme, said an official.
He added that initially farmers has to remain dependent on Kashmir region for planting material but from last few years Floriculture Department is providing technology and incentive for establishment of private nurseries.
“Due to this initiative demand of more farmers is fulfilled with availability of local planting material,” he said adding that CSIR Aroma Mission has started in 2015-16.
“With an introduction of homemade technology thousands of people can earn livelihood,” he said, adding that with regard to tourist influx especially pilgrimage and others, this industry can be popularized in the Union Territory.
Director Floriculture, Jammu, K S Chib here told that the Sher-e-Kashmir Agricultural University for Science and Technology, Jammu provides technology, in these areas and we wanted that it should be set up at central place so that farmers bring their crop and after distillation process, take oil or whatever material is processed, for further selling it in the market.
“Department only encourages cultivation but not go for marketing of the products,” he said and added that the farmers are also asked to promote lavender, which is a cash crop with other crops.
“Government also announced compensation as crop in some belts got damaged due to climatic conditions and we already have released the first installment to the farmers,” said the Director adding that few concerns were discussed with the SKAUST Jammu regarding introduction of technology for making use of Lavender and others crops of flowers like rose and marigold and the exercise is under process.

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