Jammu and Kashmir is traditionally known for its apple orchards, walnuts, mulberry, saffron, chinar, pine trees, roses, tulips and ever chanting snow-capped Himalayan mountains. Medicinal and aromatic plants sector is a sunrise industry with plenty of opportunities for new, young, innovative entrepreneurs for starting successful, eco-friendly and natural product industries. A new socio-economic revolution is underway in several parts of Jammu and Kashmir in north India, with farmers and entrepreneurs increasingly taking to the cultivation and processing of lavender. Lavender is a huge sensation in the perfume industry all around the world.
The climate of Jammu and Kashmir is highly conducive for lavender cultivation as this plant can grow in cold temperatures and moderate summers. This cash crop has a gestation period of two years before reaching economic productivity. Farmers are slowly switching over from the traditional crops to more rewarding farming of lavender, a purple blossomed aromatic shrub. From a decade, lavender farming has been introduced in Kashmir and parts of Jammu. It is now picking up revolutionary proportions. Lavender farming is now done in all the 20 districts of UT of Jammu and Kashmir particularly in Kathua, Udhampur, Doda, Ramban, Kishtwar, Rajouri, Srinagar, Pulwama, Kupwara, Bandipora, Budgam, Ganderbal, Anantnag, Kulgam and Baramulla districts and have made significant headway in this direction.
Cultivation of Lavender has become a popular agricultural startup option. It has increased rural farmer employment, sparked entrepreneurship in the production of aromatic oils and other aromatic products and reduced imports of essential and aromatic oils.
At present more than 1,000 farming families are cultivating the lavender on more than 200 acres in different parts of J&K. Each farmer has employed at least five other people. Thus, the mission has already employed over 6,000 families. Women have been the biggest beneficiaries as they are primarily engaged in harvesting and processing the flower. Besides, several young entrepreneurs have started small-scale business through the value addition of lavender oil and the preparation and sale of dried flowers.
The purple blossoms give the fields their distinctive purple tint, and it is these inflorescences that generate the oil, which is commonly used in high-end perfumes, soaps and even food items. Farmers can earn up to five times more money growing lavender on the same plot.
This fast developing high-value crop also provides an opportunity for holistic development by providing gainful work to the disadvantaged educated unemployed youth. Krishi Vigyan Kendra’s of both the varsities (SKUAST J and SKUAST K) of Jammu and Kashmir UT has a major contribution in adoption of this aromatic crop through their extension initiatives.
It aims to bring about transformational change in the aroma sector by implementing targeted interventions in agricultural, processing and product development in order to boost the aroma industry's growth and rural employment. The mission will encourage the development of aromatic crops for the production of essential oils, which are in high demand in the aroma sector. Within the ambit of this mission, it is anticipated that Indian farmers and the aroma business will be able to become worldwide leaders in the production and export of various essential oils in the menthol mint pattern.
The current production of lavender is just at the inception stage. It is expected to increase manifold in the coming years. The production of lavender in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir will help import substitution and save foreign reserves. Besides, there is excellent scope for exporting lavender oil as it has good global demand.
(DR. Ashu Sharma is Scientist at KVK Kathua of SKUAST Jammu and DR. Tariq Iqbal is CEO at Pir Panjal Vegetable Framer Producer Company Ltd)