October 20, 2020: The cultivators of Lahaul Valley in Himachal Pradesh have taken up cultivation of hing.
This makes it the first time that India began cultivation of hing (asafoetida), which is likely to save about Rs 900 crore on import.
The initiative was largely because of the efforts of the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT).
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has said that the cultivators used the vast wasteland in the remote cold desert conditions of the region.
On October 15, the first seedling of asafoetida was planted in Kwaring village of Lahaul valley to mark the inaugural of hing cultivation in India.
The CSIR stated that a shortage of planting material of Ferula asafoetida plants in the country was always a major hindrance in the cultivation of this perennial crop.
The IHB which works under CSIR has brought in the asafoetida seeds and developed its agro-technology for the plantation.
The perfect place for hing cultivation
What is interesting is that the plant requires cold and dry conditions for its growth which is the perfect climate of the cold desert areas of the Himalayan region—Ladakh and certain areas of Himachal Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. All these places of India are ideal for the cultivation of hing.
With the commercial cultivation of the crop, it can change the economic condition of people in these regions.
Sanjay Kumar, director, CSIR-IHBT said: “It will be cultivated in a staggered manner so that farmers in certain areas would start getting its benefit from fifth year onward before its expansion to more areas in Himachal Pradesh and subsequently in cold desert areas of other Himalayan states/UT.”
The Profit margin of hing cultivation
Kumar also stated: “It’ll cost farmers nearly Rs 3 lakh per hectare over next five years and give them a net return of minimum Rs 10 lakh from fifth year onwards. We will in collaboration with state governments provide support to farmers with finance and technical know-how. It’ll be a game changer for farmers in the cold desert region of the country.”
This discovery along development has been a significant boost of the Narendra Modi-led government to reduce the import bill of the country by making it Atma nirbhar in various fields such as agriculture to medical equipment to defence and so on.
The production of hing in the country is one such effort in that direction.
Hing is a perennial plant and produces oleo-gum resin from the roots after five years of the cultivation. It is a top condiment and a valuable spice crop and also an integral spice in the Indian cooking.
As per requirements India imports around 1,200 tonnes of the high-value spice annually from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan and spends about $100 million per year for it.
Last year, the country imported approximately 1,500 tonnes of raw hing from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan and spent about Rs 942 crore. The data gives a clear report of the profit India can make with the recent cultivation of hing.