Srinagar: People usually associate lavender a lighter shade of purple. But one must know that the lavender flower and the oil derived from it have long histories in herbal medicine. Lavender is a perennial shrub belonging to the mint family. Besides being an ornamental plant, it’s also an economically viable plant with a kilo of oil extracted from the flowers selling for upwards of Rs 10,000, mostly used in the aroma industry.
A native crop of Europe, lavender was introduced by Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine in the temperate regions of the Jammu division under CSIR-Aroma Mission in 2018 and tried to popularise it in Doda, Kishtwar, and Rajouri districts.
The central government has designated Lavender as a ‘Doda brand product’ to promote the exotic aromatic plant. Besides lavender cultivation is practiced in almost all 20 districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
Two government departments, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-IIIM in Srinagar and the Department of Agriculture, have their own lavender farms. The CSIR-IIIM looks after 900 acres of lavender farms across Jammu & Kashmir, including 600 acres in the Kashmir Valley. They own 60 acres of these farms in Kashmir, while the remaining 540 acres are owned by private growers, registered under the Aroma Mission launched in 2016.
Officials say a huge chunk of wasteland and Karewas can be successfully utilised for lavender production in Kashmir. They say it could provide an opportunity to farmers and unemployed youth to generate much of income besides employment generation.
As Kashmir has the best climatic conditions conducive to lavender plantations as it grows well in cold temperatures and moderately warm summers and needs one or two irrigations during the rain-fed periods. This cash crop has a gestation period of two years before reaching economic productivity. Lavender oil distilled from flowering spikes possesses a high aroma that holds a commanding position in perfumery, flavour and cosmetic industries. It is also used in anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, carminative, sedative, anti-depressive medications and is effective for burns and insect bites.
It’s a perennial crop like Saffron and its production increases with each succeeding year,” says Mufasir Ahmad, an Agricultural Expert. It’s very easy to cultivate and reaches a height of a mere 2-2.5 ft. Once you plant it, you needn’t do anything for the next 15 to 16 years except to remove dried leaves and sometimes put organic manure he said.Another added advantage is that this crop isn’t attacked by animals like monkeys, rodents or others. Once the plant blooms, the flower stocks are cut, and the plant is ready to grow again in the next season, the expert further added.
The saplings are planted in March and the fully grown floral stems are harvested in July and August. In Kashmir region, the crop is cultivated across an estimated area of around 20 hectares. There are, on average, over 200 kanals of land across many districts where private growers raise lavender. Around 2 litres of oil is extracted per kanal of land.
According to reports, lavender cultivation employs approximately 5,000 farmers and young entrepreneurs in geographically remote areas of J&K, and more than 1,000 farming families cultivate it on more than 200 acres.
Considering its impressive returns, the Jammu and Kashmir government needs to give a huge push to the lavender farming in Kashmir.