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Lavender Farming in India: A Fragrant Future || By Sangeeta Joshi, Dy. Director, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. Of India

April 15, 2023 12:30 PM

Lavender Farming in India: A Fragrant Future

By Sangeeta Joshi, Dy. Director, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. Of India

During the 17th century plague outbreak in France, a group of thieves robbed dead bodies of plague victims but amazingly never contracted the disease. After being caught, the authorities offered the thieves leniency in exchange for their secret to avoiding the plague. The thieves used a mixture of essential oils, including lavender, which they rubbed on their bodies and wore masks soaked in the same mixture. The authorities were impressed by this revelation and published the recipe, which is now known as "thieves oil". Lavender's antiseptic and calming properties have made it a symbol of protection and healing throughout history, and it remains one of the world's most popular essential oils.

Lavender is a widely cultivated plant across the world, with major producers including France, Bulgaria, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom. The plant has a rich history, dating back to ancient times, and has been utilized for a wide range of purposes, including mummification, cosmetics, bathing, cooking, and medicinal purposes. India is now emerging as a major player in the lavender farming industry, with the first lavender farm established in 2007.

Despite facing challenges such as the tropical climate, which can lead to fungal diseases and pests that can affect the plant's growth, lavender cultivation has expanded to regions such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. In recent years, Jammu and Kashmir saw a push through the ‘Aroma Mission’ to encourage lavender planting and boost output.

The popularity of lavender farming in India has grown due to the high value in products such as fragrances, soaps, and essential oils. Lavender farming can be long term profitable for farmers if they employ sustainable and environmentally friendly gardening practices. It can also help boost biodiversity, decrease water use and erosion, and improve soil fertility.

In order to support lavender farmers in Jammu and Kashmir, the government and other organizations are taking various measures, such as providing free lavender seedlings and technical instruction to farmers, creating facilities for processing and value addition, and assisting farmers in selling their produce at reasonable rates. The Jammu and Kashmir Horticultural Goods Marketing and Processing Corporation (JKHPMC) is providing access to markets to help farmers increase their profits.

Lavender plants thrive in well-drained soil, and the ideal time for sowing lavender seeds is during the monsoon season in India, from June to September. In India, two types of lavender varieties are typically grown: English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and French lavender (Lavandula stoechas). English lavender is well-suited to the Indian climate, as it can tolerate the heat and humidity of the region, making it the most popular variety for cultivation.

After sowing, lavender seeds germinate in about two to four weeks. Lavender plants require minimal maintenance, but they do need regular watering, especially during the dry season. Lavender plants typically begin to flower after 12 to 18 months, depending on the variety and growing conditions. The best time for harvesting lavender in India is from March to July, before the monsoon season begins. Lavender flowers are harvested by hand and are typically cut early in the morning when the fragrance is at its peak.

Lavender cultivation in India could have a bright future for which the government and private sector must work together to provide technical training and support to farmers, particularly in areas where lavender grows well, to further increase lavender cultivation in India. This could include initiatives such as providing free lavender seedlings, educating farmers on sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, and setting up processing and value addition centers to help increase the profitability of the crop. Moreover, efforts to improve market access and transportation infrastructure could help ensure that farmers can sell their crops at reasonable prices, further incentivizing them to expand their lavender cultivation.

With the right support and practices, lavender cultivation in India has the potential to be a profitable and sustainable industry. Lavender farming can provide means of livelihood to budding farmers and agri-entrepreneurs, giving a boost to the Start-Up India campaign. As the saying goes, "Where there's a will, there's a way," and with the government and private sector's collaboration, the fragrant future of lavender farming in India surely looks bright.

 

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