By Ritwik Sinha
Farmers in the desert district of Barmer in the western Indian state of Rajasthan are increasingly turning to pomegranates as part of their strategy to diversify to commercial crops.
Bazra, moth, moong and guar have been traditional crops of the region, but pomegranates cultivation has made a significant headway since the beginning of this decade. The rapid fluctuation and drastic drop in guar prices in the last couple of years has also led to the shift to pomegranates where pricing trends are relatively stable.
“Barmer has emerged as the pomegranates cultivation hub in the state. The total land area under pomegranates cultivation in Rajasthan is 18,000 hectares. Out of this, Barmer’s share is over 45 percent at around 8,000 hectares,” Dinesh Prajapat, a senior NABARD official told Indoaasaincommodities.
Gudamalani and Siwani are some of the prominent blocks in the district where farmers are now involved in large-scale pomegranates cultivation.
“The emphasis on pomegranates cultivation in Barmer started in 2010-11. At that time, the total area under pomegranates cultivation in the district was just 30 acres. But since then it has grown sharply,” said Pradeep Pagaria a Krishi Vigyan Kendra official.
Considering the extremely hot climatic conditions, favourable for pomegranates farming, the National Horticulture Board and NABARD had decided to give a push to this crop in the region.
“We had devised a plan to help farmers with at least 2 hectares of land to grow this crop with planting material and farm equipment assistance and this has worked,” said Prajapat.
The move was also aimed at broadening the horticulture portfolio of local farmers, who in the past have struggled to grow remunerative crops under tough climatic conditions.
“I have been growing pomegranates for the last 3 years and it has been a major addition to my list of crops. It is keeping me busy all through the year now since there are two cycles of its cultivation. After fluctuation in guar prices in Barmer and surrounding areas and a stable income trend in pomegranates, more farmers are showing preference for pomegranates now,” said Laxman Singh, a local farmer, who cultivates on a land parcel of 4 hectares on the outskirts of Barmer.
Local units of government agencies such as NABARD are also helping pomegranates farmers with periodic soil testing assistance and promoting Khadin style of irrigation, an indigenous water structure that holds water on the top surface of the cultivated land.