It is perhaps not known to many that Mizoram has a rich diversity of exotic flora and fauna, rare aromatic and medicinal plants and bamboo and an assorted variety of fruit crops like grapes (higher productivity than the national average as well as that of Maharashtra), papaya, mandarin, orange, pineapple, passion fruit and banana and spices like ginger, pepper, tea, coffee, chillies and turmeric. The North Eastern state is an excellent example of harmonious consonance with nature and natural reserves.
One of the most important cash crops of North East India is turmeric with Mizoram leading the way in terms of highest productivity. Records state that the North Eastern states contribute a sizeable share to the total production in the country (8.38 percent). There are many indigenous varieties grown in this region which command a premium price in the market according to the curcumin content, aroma, colour and taste.
Mizoram has a local variety called Reiek Local or RC – 1 or RT – 1 and the widely grown Lakodang. Known as aeing in Mizo language, the native turmeric varieties thrive in the agro-climatic conditions prevailing here. The warm and humid summers with abundant rainfall and cool winters are favourable for turmeric cultivation.
Farmers typically grow all their food crops using the traditional knowledge passed down by their ancestors which are inexpensive, completely organic and eco-friendly. Reiek turmeric, a high-yield variety was introduced in 2004 to a few farmers who found immediate success with it. This variety has since been cultivated in a large-scale across Mizoram along with Lakodang.
This turmeric is a short gestation crop and ready for harvesting in about 8 to 9 months after sowing. This makes it an attractive cash crop for poor and marginal farmers. Reiek, situated in the western part of Aizawl is blessed with gradually sloped hills and good monsoon showers between May and September.
The successful turmeric farming experiment in Reiek and surrounding villages has led to more farmers shifting to turmeric cultivation. Almost all the families living in Reiek and surrounding villages are involved in turmeric farming in some way or the other. The yield potential per hectare of turmeric is excellent (a good crop may yield around 200 quintals per hectare). Turmeric farming requires lesser financial and labour investment as compared to other crops like rice. Farmers also get enormous help from the Department of Horticulture in terms of seeds, fertilizers and cash incentives.
Reiek turmeric has a high oleoresin and curcumin content (4.5 to 5.5 percent) and is known to help reduce the risk of developing cancer. The rhizomes are mostly sold as fresh and in powder form. There are a few farmers who sell slices/dry flakes of turmeric. Turmeric capsules produced by Mission Organic Mizoram under MOVCDNER scheme have now made their way into the market.
Records state that processed turmeric fetches a higher price than raw turmeric and so therefore, the need of the hour is to set up processing plants complete with slicers, dryers, grinders, storage and packaging facilities to ensure that the farmers increase their income.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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