Agri Business

Adopt ‘trench farming’ to grow herbs, vegetables in Ladakh: Assocham

Our Bureau· Chennai | Updated on October 15, 2021

A view of cold desert in Ladakh. - Photo: Annu Anand

The industry chamber also moots greenhouse cultivation on a largescale, launching of organic mission

Farmers in the Union Territory of Ladakh should be informed about alternatives to greenhouses, such as low tunnel technology or trench farming, to help them cultivate herbs and vegetables, a report by Assocham in association with Primus Partners has said.

The report also recommends taking up greenhouse cultivation of Indian and exotic vegetables and flowers on a large scale, launching “Ladakh Organic Mission” and investing in infrastructure to tap the union territory’s full potential in farming.

Trench farming could be considered until the administration takes up the installation of commercial greenhouses. “This technology is not just low-cost, but also portable. The farmers have the ability to relocate the tunnel to whatever location they want. In high mountain locations like Changthang, they may also be utilised to cultivate herbs and vegetables,” the report said.

Adopting Trench farming

Some farmers have adopted this technique and are now growing up to 28 different varieties of vegetables, up from the previous ten. “This has not only allowed people to make more money from their agricultural products, but it has also ensured that the community has access to a variety of healthy veggies. Therefore, there is a need to carry out capacity building activities to build acceptance of this technology. The administration, in collaboration with DRDO, can look at popularising this technology in the region,” it said.

Calling for setting up at least one or two greenhouses in every village, the report pointed to how Tibetan region farmers, who have similar climatic conditions, had adapted to greenhouses.

The study said that the commercial cultivation of Indian and exotic vegetables and flowers can be taken up in large greenhouses to meet local demand and then supply to local hotels and army bases on a contractual basis. Post these developments, these produce could be supplied to the rest of the country at a premium since India imports some of these vegetables such as broccoli and bell pepper.

Favourable climate

It said climatic conditions were favourable for the development of high-quality apricot and apple in the Union Territory, where large-scale seabuckthorn cultivation has the potential to be a critical instrument for Ladakh's cold desert's long-term development.

Pointing out that current primary processing of the seabuckthorn berry is being done in Ladakh, the study said various components such as the pulp, seed and hull are sold to firms located outside the region for further value-addition.

“There is an opportunity for development of value-added products in this area. Hence, the government needs to create a favourable environment for the investors through partial support in the form of subsidies, training and skill development on value-added products,” the Assocham report said.

Adding value to products

The study said wastage of apricot and apples — that are abundantly produced during warm weather and in lower regions such as Sham, Nubra and Kargil — was high due to poor market linkages.

Therefore, the government could consider setting up processing units that will also employ women who could be organised into self-help groups to produce jams, jellies, oil from the pulp of these fruits.

Similarly, native herbs and flowers including exotic species, such as Geranium, can be used to produce aromatic and medicinal oils, herbal tea, extracts for soaps and perfumes, scented candles etc, the report said.

The pulp extraction facilities can produce various value-added products from both these fruits andseabuckthorn, besides natural dyes that can be exported or used by the domestic textiles industries.

The report said Ladakh’s weather conditions were ideal for seed development of various vegetable crops. The Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) in Leh has developed seed production systems for a variety of temperate vegetable crops.

“Cabbage, onion, leek, beetroot, temperate radish, temperate carrot, turnip, swede, celery, and parsley are vegetable seed crops that can be produced on sandy to heavy soils with enough water and nutrients. If given the right impetus, these have the potential of being exported and grown throughout the world,” the Assocham report said.

Going organic

On the need to launch a “Ladakh Organic Mission” with a vision of the next five years, the report said such a mission should focus on making Ladakh an organic certified region, like Sikkim. Another component of this mission could focus on eco-friendly packaging for the product, creating a unique brand image for its products.

The report called for additional investment in infrastructure with private sector players coming forward to invest in essential infrastructure for agriculture in the region that will have the capacity to transform the sector.

“Solar-powered cold storage, mini food parks, commercial greenhouses etc. are all parts of essential infrastructure that are the need of the hour for the sector. Setting up of small units with food processing facilities will also create more jobs for the locals,” it added.

Published on October 14, 2021

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