India’s niger seed cultivation is declining; right here is why

Lack of presidency curiosity in tribal delicacies, amarbel infestation, low productiveness of niger seeds and rising paddy cultivation are a few of these elements

Considered one of the 14 kharif crops for which the Centre releases a minimal help worth (MSP) yearly is an unlikely plant referred to as niger or ramtil (Guizotia abyssinica). This lesser recognized oilseed instructions one of many highest MSPs, fastened on the idea of the price of manufacturing and market demand.

But, the realm below its cultivation has been steadily shrinking over the previous three a long time. In 1985-86, niger was cultivated on round 0.6 million hectares (ha), in response to a 2013 report by the All India Coordinated Analysis Mission on Sesame and Niger (AICRP), Jabalpur.

In 2020-21, the cultivated space shrunk by 80 per cent to slightly over 0.1 million ha, the bottom among the many 14 kharif crops with MSP. Paddy, essentially the most extensively grown kharif crop, is cultivated on nearly 40 million ha.

The first purpose such a sparsely grown crop is a part of the unique MSP checklist is as a result of niger seed has historically “been the lifeline of tribal agriculture and financial system in a number of states throughout India,” the 2013 AICRP report said.

The tribal inhabitants makes use of niger seed oil for cooking, the press cake publish oil-extraction as livestock feed, and likewise devour the seeds as a condiment. Niger seed oil has medicinal properties, which is the rationale for its business demand by the cosmetics, perfumeries and different allied industries.

Apart from, the crop can develop on denuded soil and its cultivation technique is pretty primary: After the primary rain when the soil is moist, farmers have to plough the sphere and sprinkle the seeds.

The crop neither requires a lot water nor fertilisers and pesticides. Why then are the tribal communities more and more avoiding the oilseed regardless of such benefits and authorities help?

Vanishing Act

“Niger seed has been an integral a part of our lives for generations. However prior to now few a long time, nearly all of the 62 households within the village have both decreased the realm below the crop or stopped rising it,” Yagesh Ureti, a resident of Khamiria village, situated on the Satpura hill ranges in Madhya Pradesh, stated.

He’s additionally the husband of the Khamiria village sarpanch. Most households within the village belong to the Gond tribal group who would historically develop niger on the highest of the plateau, the place water doesn’t stagnate.

On the center slope, they’d develop pulses and paddy on the backside, the place the rainwater would ultimately get collected.

“Just lately, most households have began to create ridges on the highest of the plateau to carry water and develop paddy in them,” Ureti stated.

It is because niger crops are frequently destroyed by amarbel, a twining parasitic plant referred to as Cuscuta chinensis in scientific lexicon.

The weed belonging to the Cuscuta genus, with over 200 parasitic species, is likely one of the greatest threats to niger seed farming.

A 2003 research by the Nationwide Analysis Centre for Weed Science in Jabalpur, confirms that the density of amarbel has an influence on niger seed yield. Relying on the amarbel density, niger seed yield decreases by 52 to 99.2 per cent.

“Lately, niger farming has grow to be a big gamble because the farmers can probably lose their total produce. Paddy, then again, ensures no less than some earnings,” Prem Singh Amthuria, a farmer from Ara Gugra village in Chhattisgarh, who has given up niger seed farming, stated.

The explanation for the gradual enhance in amarbel infestation lies in the truth that most farmers informally procure seeds from non-public growers or fellow farmers.

Such seeds support within the unfold of amarbel weeds because the “identification, genetic purity, high quality and supply of the seed will not be authenticated”, the 2013 AICRP report stated.

The report goes on to state that authorities analysis institutes have developed high-yielding, amarbel-resistant niger varieties, however these seldom attain farmers.

“The present formal system of seed manufacturing had been hardly adequate to deal with the seed requirement. Minor crops like niger aren’t high-priority in seed producing companies and due to this fact the manufacturing of high quality seed for the farmers of this crop is pathetic,” the report said.

It beneficial establishing of seed villages for producing high-quality niger seeds and promoting these on to farmers by agriculture festivals and native retailers.

The federal government, sadly, has not acted on the suggestions of the report created by its personal company. “The agriculture division has lately developed the JNS 28 and 30 styles of niger which can be proof against amarbel. However the amount is so low that even we shouldn’t have it. So now we have nothing to offer to the farmers,” Vishal Meshram, head and senior scientist on the Krishi Vigyan Kendra within the Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh, stated.

BB Singh, former mission coordinator of AICRP, stated niger was falling out of favour amongst its solely patrons as a result of tribal meals has not been a precedence for the federal government. “Had the federal government applied our strategies, the problems of amarbel infestation and low productiveness of niger seeds would have been resolved by now,” Singh claimed.

Ram Pyare Paraste of Khamiria village in Madhya Pradesh says most tribal families there are not  aware of 
a minimum support price for niger seedThe federal government apathy additionally implies that most initiatives to help niger farmers seldom attain them. Down To Earth throughout its go to to 4 tribal villages in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which nonetheless develop niger, discovered that the farmers weren’t conscious of MSP for the crop and typically offered their produce to native merchants at a worth decrease than the federal government help worth.

“Final 12 months, we offered our niger seeds for Rs 4,000-5,000 a quintal (100 kg),” Ureti stated.

In 2020-21, the MSP was Rs 6,930, which implies the residents have lately offered their produce at 30-40 per cent cheaper price. “The value by no means crosses Rs 5,000 a quintal,” Ureti stated.

This 12 months, the federal government has fastened the MSP at Rs 7,287. However Chainu Singh Dhanarsia of Banagora village in Chhattisgarh’s Kabirdham district had offered his niger produce for Rs 4,000 just a few days earlier than DTE visited his village in early July.

“We didn’t know that the federal government fixes a minimal worth for niger and different crops. Even when we knew, we’d not have obtained a greater worth as a result of the merchants resolve the speed,” Dhanarsia stated.

Time to alter tack

Meshram is, nonetheless, hopeful. For the reason that novel coronavirus outbreak, native meals has caught the flamboyant of the federal government in addition to the individuals.

Niger seed is an area meals crop that’s grown 100 per cent naturally within the nation. That is the right time to revive the crop, Meshram stated.

There’s additionally a prepared worldwide demand for niger seed which stays largely unmet, Prem Grover, one of many largest Indian exporters of the oilseed, stated.

“Even eight years in the past, I might export about 9,000 tonnes of niger seed to the US yearly. This 12 months, it has dropped to three,000 tonnes as a result of it’s turning into more and more troublesome to search out niger farmers within the nation,” he stated.

Grover stated earlier India’s Shellac Export Promotion Council used to advertise niger and supply help to its exporters. However 5 years in the past, it misplaced curiosity within the crop. This straight impacted the exports and the exporters.

Meshram stated if the federal government companies ramp up seed manufacturing and supply market entry to the tribal communities, niger seed will as soon as once more grow to be an economically and environmentally viable supply of earnings for them, notably these dwelling in arid and hilly areas.

This was first printed within the 16-31 August, 2022 version of Down To Earth

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