The flower growers of Varanasi hope to see sales bloom during Diwali
Thousands of farmers in Chiraigaon block of Varanasi cultivate flowers. Navratri and Diwali are when they earn maximum profits. While untimely October rains have destroyed a part of their produce, they hope Diwali sales will help compensate for their losses.
Ankit Rathore 19 Oct 2022 1:00 PM GMT
Chiraigaon (Varanasi), Uttar Pradesh
Heaps of flowers in bright hues – marigold, roses, jasmine and hibiscus – welcome visitors to the villages in Chiraigaon block of Varanasi. Farmers, who cultivate flowers on a large scale in this district in Uttar Pradesh, are additionally busy during the Diwali season when the demand for their labour of love is at its peak.
Thousands of farmers in Chiraigaon block make maximum profits in the Navratri and Diwali season when their flowers are sold far and wide.
Fifty-year-old Motilal Maurya from Dhannipur village is one such farmer who, despite losing a part of his flower harvest to the untimely heavy rainfall in October, is hoping to earn handsomely in Diwali. It was about 15 years ago, when the farmer, who cultivated traditional crops like wheat and paddy, switched to flower farming.
"I was amongst the first few farmers to adopt cultivating flowers in my village. I have been able to get a pucca (cemented) house built for myself due to my earnings from flower cultivation. This was simply not possible had I stuck to growing paddy and wheat," Maurya told Gaon Connection.. "Now, I easily earn almost five hundred rupees per day which helps me in sustaining my livelihood comfortably," he added.
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According to the former village head of the Dhannipur village, almost 3,000 farmers in his village now rest upon the prospect of getting profits from the sale of flowers during the five-day Diwali festival that starts from October 22.
In the Chiraigaon block, of which Maurya's village is a part of, villages like Chunadih, Dinapur, Raghunathpur, Parayi, Phoolpur, Gopalpur, and Gaura are known for extensive cultivation of flowers like rose, marigold, jasmine, and hibiscus. These villages ensure a regular supply of flowers not only during the festive seasons but also to the plethora of temples in Varanasi on a daily basis.
Subhash Kumar, the district horticulture officer in Varanasi, told Gaon Connection that 565.75 hectares of agricultural land in the district is used for the cultivation of flowers.
"Out of all flowers, marigold is the most extensively cultivated crop. The productivity of the flower is almost 12,500 kilogrammes per hectare," Kumar said. He went on to inform that "the recent rainfall damaged the crops of flowers by almost five per cent".
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October rainfall plays spoilsport
The heavy rainfall in the first two weeks of October caused significant damage to the crops of flowers in the villages in Varanasi. The district has received 57 per cent excess rainfall in October so far, as noted by the India Meteorological Department.
Overall, Uttar Pradesh, which was reeling under drought conditions till last month, has received 479 per cent above normal rainfall between October 1 and October 18 this month. Such heavy rainfall resulted in losses to the flower farmers as they could not supply their produce at a time when the demand was high — during Navratri.
About 20 kilometres from his Rajatalaab village, Ramesh Kumar, a flower cultivator, was setting up his small shop in Varanasi's Englishiyaline area.
"The heavy rainfall has caused black spots on my jasmine flowers as a result of which I am getting lower prices for my produce. The flowers which would have been sold at Rs 30 per garland are now being sold at Rs 20," Ramesh Kumar said.
Manish Patel, a farmer from Mirzamurad area in Varanasi, told Gaon Connection that 50 per cent of his marigold crop was damaged in the recent rains.
"However, I am hoping that the loss will be recovered during Diwali as the price for a garland of marigold flowers will be sold at around Rs 25 while the usual price of such a garland is Rs 15 for the rest of the year. Diwali might compensate for the losses during Navratri," Patel said.
Subhash Kumar, the district horticulture officer, was hopeful too. "The losses suffered during the Navratri were because of the heavy rainfall which resulted in the rotting of the unplucked flowers in the fields. Also, the rainfall lowered the temperature which didn't allow the rose flowers to ripen and blossom. Now, if the sales are good during Diwali, the farmers can compensate for their losses," he said.
"The demand for flowers in Varanasi is too high for the local farmers to meet. The flowers are also transported to Varanasi from not only the neighbouring districts but also from various states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh," the district officer added.
National Floriculture Mission
Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh government also joined hands with the CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) to prepare a roadmap for the promotion of flower farming in the state under the National Floriculture Mission launched by the Centre more than two years ago.
The CSIR Floriculture Mission, founded in March 2021, aims to focus on commercial floral crops and the cultivation of flowers for honey bee rearing and wild ornamental plants to help farmers and industry prepare themselves to meet the export requirements.
The government of India has identified floriculture as a sunrise industry and accorded it 100 per cent export-oriented status.
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According to the Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), India exported 23,597.17 metric tonnes of floriculture products worth Rs 771.41 crore (103.47 USD million) in 2021-22. Germany, Netherlands, U.K, United Arab Emirates, Canada and the US were major importing countries of Indian floriculture during the same period.
Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, and West Bengal have emerged as major floriculture centres. About 322,000 hectares of the area were under cultivation for floriculture in 2020-21. Production of flowers is estimated to be 2,151,960 tonnes of loose flowers and 828,090 tonnes of cut flowers in 2020-21.