Since 2010, acres of lavender peeping from the hills as one travels through Doda, Kishtwar districts, and Bhaderwah sub-district in J&K have added to the scenic beauty. Farmers in these areas believe they have struck gold. “Previously, we mainly planted maize and could hardly produce Rs.2500 per kanal [8 kanals=1 acre of land]. We generate around Rs.15000 per kanal every year through lavender growing and selling the oil extracted from it,” says 41-year-old Bharat Bhushan, a pioneer of sorts in large-scale lavender cultivation in this region. Despite the fact that he began the trend in 2010, more than 500 farmers are now following in his footsteps.
Lavender as goldmine
Bharat Bhushan says that cultivating this perennial crop, which grows to a height of about 2-2.5 feet, is quite simple. After you plant it, you don't have to do anything for the next 15 to 16 years except remove dried leaves and occasionally apply organic manure. Another advantage is that this crop is not attacked by animals such as monkeys, rats, etc. Once the plant has bloomed, the flower stocks are cut, and the plant is ready to develop again in the next season.
However, there are no returns in the first two years, which discouraged many farmers from harvesting lavender. However, it wasn't until the third year that they realized they were sitting on a goldmine. It is one of the finest cash crops in the world, with a farmer earning Rs.250000 to Rs.300000 per hectare, or roughly 20 kanals, each year with very low input. Farmers producing lavender in this region have land holdings ranging from 20 kanals to 600 kanals
Bharat, who owns property on Khellani top in Lehrote village, goes on to explain, "Some of my purchasers from Mumbai, Delhi, and Jammu have urged us not to use chemical fertilizers since they harm the oil quality." So, if we use any, it must be entirely chemical-free organic fertilizers.”
Farmers in these districts, who are accustomed to the hardships of living on hills and they have to trudge almost 4-5 km. two to three times a day to reach motorable roads are overjoyed with their new crop and the changes it is bringing to the region.
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