Farmers make colorful splash with tulips from India

Vikrant Thakur first gave up growing potatoes. Later, the 29-year-old farmer from Mudgran village in the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh phased out cauliflower, peas, and onion from his farm. Instead, Thakur has been focusing on floriculture, more specifically, the prized tulip.

"How much money am I going to make selling vegetables? Some Rs 20-25 for a kg? Flowers do not require any chemicals or fertilizers, are not prone to diseases, and there is hardly much work once planted. With the opening of the Atal Tunnel, transportation costs have also come down," says Thakur, who says he gets Rs 100 for a stick of tulip at the Ghazipur flower market in Delhi. This year, Thakur has sown 40,000 bulbs of tulips waiting to be harvested in June, which is not the regular flowering season. "All the off-season tulips and oriental lilies in the capital come from Lahaul. We also sell to Palampur, Kashmir, and Meghalaya. The demand for tulips is growing every year," says a beaming Thakur.

Legend has it that at the height of tulip mania in the Netherlands in the 17th century, one could trade a bulb for a diamond. Whether or not that story is true, there is no denying that the value of the bloom has been growing every year in India.

Thakur is one among a batch of 20 farmers in Mudgran who has been trained in tulip cultivation by scientists at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research - Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (CISR-IHBT). Thakur is optimistic that one day India will no longer have to import from the Netherlands, which is the largest producer and exporter of tulip bulbs in the world. In the run-up to the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting in Delhi in March, some 1.3 lakh tulip bulbs were procured from the Netherlands and planted across the NDMC area so they could bloom by mid-February. There are plans to source and plant five lakh tulip bulbs in the next season. And in line with this ambitious announcement, efforts are now being made to encourage indigenous suppliers.


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