TT, Darjeeling: The hills of Darjeeling are home to more than 400 varieties of orchid, but lack of post harvesting technology and proper marketing have become the bane in terms of the flower's export, both domestically and elsewhere, where demand is huge.
Parshottambhai Rupala, Union minister of state for agriculture, farmer welfare and panchayati raj, is on his maiden visit to the hills. Today, he said every effort would be undertaken to globally establish the Darjeeling orchid and rebuild the region’s economy that is primarily dependent on tea and tourism.
“I was of the view that only tea cultivation takes place in Darjeeling. And I am surprised to know that orchid is also grown here. Countries such as Holland, Indonesia and Thailand have developed their economy on orchid cultivation. I think we can emulate these countries and Darjeeling can be the face of orchid export for our nation,” the minister said.
Rupala was invited by the National Research Centre for Orchids (NRCO), Darjeeling Campus to attend a day-long workshop on farmers' participation in orchid research and development at the Gorkha Ranga Mancha Bhawan.
The minister said it was unfortunate that orchids were produced in the hills only for domestic use and that efforts would be made to put in place marketing strategies to help facilitate export. “It is unfortunate that the orchids are grown only for domestic use. I think we need to market the produce properly to reap the benefits. I will try to ensure better marketing facility in Siliguri as it has proper connectivity and is the gateway to the Northeast,” Rupala said.
He also assured all help and support from the central government whose aim is to increase the income of Indian farmers by handing out loans. “In this budget, the central government has allotted Rs10 lakh crore towards loan for farmers. The question is how this amount is made available to farmers of this region. I suggest that you set up cooperatives and prepare projects and I will ensure funds get sanctioned immediately. You can call me every month to enquire about the progress,” promised the minister.
He also said a Krishi Vigyan Kendra and a tissue culture facility would be established in Darjeeling and asked the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration to get the state government’s approval for land to house the infrastructure.
Dr. Rampal, scientist in-charge of the NRCO, said Darjeeling has potential to develop as an orchid growing region. He said besides the domestic market, there is huge demand for orchids in the Middle East.
“More than 400 varieties of orchids are grown in the areas of Kurseong, Pokhriabong and Mirik. The problem is lack of latest technology and proper marketing. We can develop orchid villages in clusters to facilitate collection, marketing and export systematically,” he said. In the domestic market, especially in the metros, a single stick of orchid is priced at Rs150 to Rs200. When the same flower is exported, it fetches gets anything between Rs400 and Rs500.
Niraj Chhetri, who exports orchids brought from Holland to markets in the Middle East, said lack of proper technology, marketing and post harvesting management were deterrents in developing Darjeeling as an orchid destination. “Quantity, quality and colour are three factors.
As far as orchid cultivation in Darjeeling is concerned, we lack them here. We don’t even have a cold storage facility, here. But these things can be addressed,” he said.