India is the world’s leading producer and exporter of turmeric with a staggering average of 46,500 tons of turmeric exported each year valued at approximately Rs 4,689 million! Besides, the established varieties grown in different parts of the country, there are at least seventeen known variants that have an impressive curcumin content ranging from 2.8 percent to 9.3 percent that are now entering the export market. The growth of the turmeric market is driven by the demands in the herbal food supplements, cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors.
Waigaon is a small village in the Samudrapur tehsil of Wardha district in the state of Maharashtra. Known till recently for the famous dargah of Baba Sheikh Farid Giradwale, Waigaon catapulted to fame and success overnight for its unique turmeric that was awarded the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2016.
The Waigaon turmeric is believed to have been cultivated since the Mughal era by the Mali community. Now, however, other communities like Kunbi and Teli are also heavily invested in growing this crop. Around two thousand three hundred people or at least 80 percent of this village have been cultivating turmeric for generations.
This traditional crop of Wardha was grown originally in Waigaon though now it is cultivated in thirteen neighbouring villages. Spread over 1,300 hectares of land with an approximate production of 19,500 tons, farmers have now shifted to using organic methods as the advantage of owning a certification of organic farming far exceeds the ordinary practices of farming using chemical fertilizers with better soil health, greater produce, competitive prices and superior quality.
The cultivation of turmeric generally starts in June as farmers prefer to take advantage of the monsoon for the planting. The black soil in Waigaon is alkaline in nature with a pH of 8.6 and high carbon content which aids in retaining water in the soil. Wardha river also flows near to Waigaon and canals are used to supply water in this turmeric belt.
Whole, healthy and disease-free rhizomes from the previous production are used for planting in the month of June. The crop is ready for harvest within 180 days unlike other varieties that need between 220 and 240 days to mature. This gives Waigaon turmeric a significant edge over the other varieties as it arrives in the market earlier.
The Waigaon turmeric has a dark mustard yellow colour as compared to other varieties. Its rich aroma and and distinctive hue has made it extremely popular with traders from the neighbouring districts of Hinganghat, Nagpur and Chandrapur who arrive in large numbers to buy the fresh produce in January.
The fresh turmeric is harvested and processed using traditional methods like boiling the rhizomes and drying them in the shade. The Waigaon turmeric has turmeric curcumin content of 6.24 percent by weight which is considered to be very good. The texture of this turmeric powder is very soft with a pungent aroma.
This turmeric is used by the locals to cure cough, cold and applied on wounds. Like all varieties of turmeric, Waigaon turmeric also finds an exclusive place in medicine. The high curcumin content in Waigaon is used to treat cancer, as an anti-viral against HIV, in the prevention and treatment of neurological diseases, to cure arthritis, as a blood purifier and to treat skin diseases among others.
As Waigaon turmeric is now on the world map, efforts are being made by many self-help groups as well as the Government to supply seeds to the locals and other neighbouring areas as well. Previously, Waigaon farmers used to process the turmeric individually using traditional methods, but will now have the advantage of processing facilities that can directly convert farm fresh wet turmeric rhizomes to dry powder within a day. This will result in a massive qualitative and quantitative improvement in turmeric powder. The ideology of the growers of Waigaon is to double their income by making value-added products and not depend entirely on the supply of the raw material i.e. turmeric to the world in large quantities.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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