Rabi sowing is on in full swing, and among the winter crops, isabgol or psyllium is gradually gaining traction among farmers in Gujarat. The sowing season is far from over, and already the sowing of isabgol in the State has exceeded the three-year average acreage.
According to the Gujarat government’s agriculture department data, the area under isabgol was 9,700 hectares as on December 13, against the three-year average of 8,900 hectares.
Strong export demand and an assured market have incentivised farmers to take to this crop, which is used in medical applications, besides confectionery and bakery items in Europe, the US, Mexico and Pakistan.
Gujarat’s dwindling share
With about 1.2 lakh tonnes of isabgol production every year, India is the leading producer of the crop.
But Gujarat’s share of the country’s overall isabgol production has gone down from 35 per cent in 2008-09 to about 20 per cent now. On the spot, isabgol fetched ?2,100-2,300 per 20 kg at Unjha, whereas the processed isabgol husk is priced at ?150-180 per kg, depending on quality.
A quintal of isabgol seed yields about 25 kg of husk, which is primarily used as a laxative.
AU Amin, in-charge of the research station at Jagudan, Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University in North Gujarat, explains why farmers diversified into producing isabol.
There is a climatic risk due to unseasonal rains in winter, says Amin.
It causes damage to the crop and loss to the farmers. Therefore, farmers gradually shifted to other crops. Also, the price was less remunerative. However, there is a huge scope for value addition of the crop.
The university is in the process of bringing new non-shattering seeds to withstand climatic adversity.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, during his visit to Deesa, called for innovation and value-addition in isabgol to make it more remunerative and attractive to farmers.
Modi recalled that he had suggested to Verghese Kurien, father of the White Revolution, that he should find a way to harness the commercial potential of isabgol. And he made an ice cream from it and sold in Anand, Modi said.
However, traders are disappointed by the lack of incentives from the government to take up research and trials for value addition in the crop.
We are small units and cannot afford heavy investments in R&D for value addition. There are no incentives from the government for small units to undertake such activities, said Chirag Patel of Satnam Psyllium Industries in Unjha.
Besides Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are the key growers of the commodity.
Most of the arrivals come from Rajasthan and Gujarat. Prices have been stable, and we expect the production too to remain stable next year as there has been no sharp jump in the acreage, said Patel.
According to trader sources, about 90-95 per cent of India’s isabgol production is exported.
According to DGFT data, India exported 29,343 tonnes of isabgol in 2011-12; 32,465 tonnes in 2013-14; and 32,325 tonnes in 2014-15.
Original Source: thehindubusinessline.com
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