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Saturday, March 26, 2011


                                                            - Syiem, Bary & Shabong, C.S.

Smt. Quency Thangkhiew at her Anthurium Greenhouse

          Floriculture was a passing hobby practiced by flower lovers and enthusiasts and Meghalaya is no exception. The people of Shillong were known for their passion with flowers which adorn their verandah and in lawns of prominent houses in Pine city. However in early 2000, availability of improved planting materials, seeds and other scientific, technical inputs and the increasing market demand, has encouraged growers to exploit the commercial potentialities of this hobby. As one hobbyist in Shillong remarked “this hobby of mine has now become a self paying venture due to the increasing awareness by housewives on this art”. Smt. Queency Thangkhiew, one of the earliest enthusiasts has turned this hobby into a thriving commercial enterprise. Thanks to such entrepreneurs, floriculture is now here to stay and Meghalaya is set to witness a colourful revolution in the days ahead. Thanks to the vision of the State Government to turn Meghalaya into a flower State of India, with the active support and participation of such brave entrepreneurs, the future is rosy indeed.
          Commercial floriculture is a recent phenomenon in Meghalaya, promoted and assisted by the Government of India Scheme “Technology Mission Scheme on Horticulture”. Considering the natural advantages that the State is endowed with and the varied range of agro-climatic conditions available, there is high potential for cultivation of all types of flowers. The rich flora and the many species of orchids growing wild in the State, which is the highest ever recorded in a single concentrated area, is a testimony to this fact.
          Meghalaya also has a very high potential for commercial floriculture due to the many competitive advantages the State has: a favourable climate, diverse agro climatic situations suitable for tropical and temperate flowers, competitive labour cost, proximity to Guwahati and Kolkatta Airport etc. The State is divided into 2(two) major floriculture zones namely; the temperate zone and the sub-tropical zone. The entire East and West Khasi Hills and the upper parts of Jaintia Hills district falls under temperate zone while Ri-Bhoi and the Garo Hills falls under the sub-tropical zone.

Commercial Carnations growing under Greenhouse in Nongstoin Horti Hub 
           Floriculture produce, being a non food crop, was not a thrust area in the overall agriculture development plan of the State till the late 1990’s, where the thrust was on increasing food grains production and productivity. It was in 1993-94 that the Department of Agriculture started to popularize floriculture among flower growers and enthusiast through Government of India scheme. The Agri-Horticultural Society, Shillong aided by the Department of Agriculture also organizes flower show and flower competition in Shillong to promote floriculture. This became an annual event and has brought a lot of awareness to the public about modern floriculture practices and marketing prospects.
          Further, with the establishment of a separate Directorate of Horticulture in the State, floriculture got a boost through the various schemes of the State Government like Development of Floriculture Scheme started in 2000-2001, Setting up of Model Floriculture Centre, Establishment of Floriculture projects at Dewlieh in Ri-Bhoi  and Samgong Horticulture Farm in E.Garo Hills districts through the Technology Mission Scheme on Horticulture. The objectives of the schemes were to focus on the promotional and awareness aspects by providing incentives to the farmers and motivating them to grow traditional as well as non-traditional floral crops and houseplants for commercial purpose. The nature of assistance provided is in the form of providing the growers with diseased free planting material, organic/inorganic fertilizers, plant protection chemicals, garden tools and implements for a minimum area of 2000 square meters, along with a package of practices for commercial production. Each unit is envisaged to serve as a demonstration model for which the Department provides technical guidelines through extension and training. Crop selection is on the basis of existing popularity and market demands. A few of the recommended ornamental crops grown are Orchids, Chrysanthemums, Gerberras, Carnations, Liliums, Strelitzia reginae, Gladiolus, Asters, Marigolds, Statice, Gomphrenas, Helichyrsums, Zinnias, Roses and different kind of house plants etc. The concerted effort of the Department in motivating growers as well as providing infrastructural support in the form of green house, poly house, shade nets and other inputs has led to the establishment of a number of private nurseries especially in the East Khasi Hills district.
          The Directorate of Horticulture has also identified floriculture clusters in the State which are suitable for growing certain high value flowers. East Khasi Hills have been identified for Orchids, Carnations and Gerbera; West Khasi Hills for Carnations; Jaintia Hills for Bird of Paradise; Ri-Bhoi for Orchid, Rose, Anthurium, Lilium and Foliage; West Garo Hills for Liliums and Bird of Paradise; East Garo Hills for Anthurium, Foliage and Bird of Paradise. At present, East Khasi Hills, East Garo Hills and Ri-Bhoi districts have established green house floriculture units in the departmental farms as well as in farmer’s field. The estimated area under floriculture in the State is about 500 Hectares.
          The Rose Pilot project which was initially started at Dewlieh Departmental Farm in Ri-Bhoi district at an area of 0.5 hectare has been a success with a production of 2500 cut flowers per day. Today, Rose, Lilium and Anthurium cultivation has also been extended to farmer’s field in village clusters through self help groups and individual farmers. 
          The Anthurium project at Samgong Horticulture farm is a tourist spot for farmers, high power dignitaries and the common people. This is because of the success of the project taken under the cultivation of the flower. The excellent marketing of anthurium as cut flower gives a phenomenal impact to the farmers which encouraged them to go for commercial group cultivation.
            Commercially, there are several existing limitations in the floriculture development in the State, which needs to be overcome through proper planning and developmental efforts at all levels. However, from a technical point of view, the development of floriculture business enterprises in Meghalaya has a very high potential. This potential can be exploited to improve the socio-economic condition of the State. In addition, being a major export item, it can substantially contribute towards foreign exchange earning of the entire country.
          The India Today ranking of States in India has shown Meghalaya’s agriculture to be faring comparatively better among the Small States in North Eastern Region and the magazine ranked Meghalaya comparatively better. The State has also improved from its earlier overall 5th position during 2006 to becoming 1st among North Eastern States (except Assam which is categorized as a big State) during 2007.  This goes on to show that agriculture, specially horticulture in Meghalaya is on a growth trajectory and the State only needs a boost in resources, better post harvest management, marketing linkages, organized marketing and creation of economy of scale in order to accelerate it to the take off stage. With the right policies of the State Government and adequate fund injection through the Technology Mission for Horticulture Development along with farmer’s and entrepreneurs of the State coming forward to take up commercial floriculture, Meghalaya will not be lagging behind and the vision articulated by the Department of Agriculture will hopefully, flower and bloom in its full glory and beauty.  

(The writers are Agriculture Information Officer and Agriculture Development Officer, respectively working in the Department of Agriculture, Meghalaya)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Meghalaya, the land of wine and honey

                                                                     -By Bary Syiem *
Meghalaya, the land of hynñiew trep and hynñiew skhum is blessed with a variety of agro-climatic conditions favoring cultivation of different types of horticultural crops like fruits, vegetables, flowers etc. The natural vegetation profile ranges from tropical to temperate type and indeed, Meghalaya can appropriately be classed as a Horticulture state.

Sohiong wine being promoted in the Indigenous Plant Festival during 2010
 Under this climatic variation, the state harbors an enormous diversity of plants both domesticated and wild, with an impressive variety of habitats and an ecosystem which is a treasure house where future economy can be sustained.  
          Meghalaya is also the home of many indigenous species of fruit plants which may not be found anywhere else in the world. The horticultural wealth of the state in terms of fruit plants includes Peach, Plum, Pear, Pineapple, Banana, Sohphie, Sohiong, Sohshang, Sohphoh Khasi, Sohlang, Sohbrap etc.
The credibility of Horticulture in this state has indeed been established beyond doubt in improving productivity of land, generating employment and also improving the economic conditions of the farmers and entrepreneurs of the state. But the true potential of horticulture can be reached only through effective diversification of its horticultural strength in terms of value addition to horticultural products, capitalizing on market monopoly of our indigenous fruits and their products, popularization and commercialization of indigenous fruits, plants, indigenous herbs and medicinal plants etc. Constraints in the horticulture sector no doubt exist in terms of marketing facilities, lack of infrastructure, poor management system, inadequate institutional mechanism to support horticulture development as per changing trends etc. Some of these constraints are being addressed by the Directorate of Horticulture through various new schemes and their extension machineries, and as a result, the farmers are able to take up cultivation of horticultural crops on a larger scale thereby enabling them to improve on the production of horticultural commodities.
Despite these achievements, there exists a wide gap between the potential and the actual realization. With increasing population and requirements, diversification of horticultural products has to take place. This will encourage the farmers and will act as an incentive to increase production of various fruits.
          As we know, horticulture produce  are highly perishable in nature but over the years, the people of Meghalaya have found many uses for the many varieties of fruits growing here besides enjoying them for table purposes. These include making jams, jellies, squash, and juices to name a few. Looking towards the future people can now exploit the age old hobby of wine making. This trend which certain NGO,s are encouraging through the Wine Festivals etc, takes full advantage of the rich fruit resources of our state.  Some of the home-made wines that were showcased last year included; Sohiong wine, Sohbrap (passion fruit) wine, Sohlang wine, Plum wine, Pineapple wine, Pear wine and a variety of enticing combinations such as Sohmon with Sohiong wine. This hobby could grow gradually as a cottage industry and then commercialized into an industry, which would automatically boost the economy of the state. 
If fruit production, especially our indigenous fruits, is encouraged, this will provide wine makers with a larger selection. And as wine making gains popularity, fruit farmers will have a better market for their harvest. For instance, when the fruit market is saturated during a particularly good season, many farmers lose much of their profit and product due to inability to sell before the fruit is over ripe.  However, if wine makers become viable customers, the farmer would have a market for his fruit.
          It is sincerely hoped that Shillong wine festival and other indigenous fruit festival will help create awareness not only on the art of wine making but also its commercial potential as an industry which will in turn encourage the farming community to grow more fruit trees and thereby realize the full horticulture potential of our state with an economy to match.

(The writer is Agriculture Information Officer, Directorate of Agriculture, Meghalaya and can be contacted at

Friday, March 11, 2011

Horticulture in Meghalaya - A New Development Paradigm

                                                                                                        - Canning S Shabong *
Meghalaya offers an excellent scope for growing of different types of horticultural crops including Fruits, Vegetables, Spices, Plantation crops, Medicinal and Aromatic plants of high economic value. A wide range of tropical, sub- tropical and temperate fruits such as Mandarin Orange, Pineapple, Banana, Lemon, Guava, Pear, Plum etc. are grown all over the State. A large variety of fruits & vegetables, both indigenous and exotic are grown across a wide range of agro climatic zones. The higher altitudes provides conducive ecosystem to grow traditional vegetables like Potato and Cole crops during the rainy season. Tuber and Root crops such as Sweet Potato and Tapioca, Spices such as Turmeric, Ginger, Chillies, etc. also grow abundantly. Plantation crops such as Tea, Cashewnut, Coconut, Arecanut and other spice crop like Black Pepper have been performing well and offer good scope for area expansion. In the long run, these crops can change the entire economic situation of the people of the State.
th Five Year Plan period. Setting up of Cold Chains, Refer Vans are in the pipeline and these will complement the expected surge in production volumes of high value crops in the medium term.
A paradigm shift in approach, priority and focus has been the hallmark of this initiative, which functions on a "farmer’s first" principle. Recognising that Horticulture Development cannot take place in isolation, the Department will strive towards a total approach
from the farm gate, right up the value chain till it reaches the consumer’s plate.
Further, 5 Farmer’s market and 4 new horti hubs will be established along with cold chain and transportation facilities. These initiatives will further provide a boost to the sector.

Photo : Strawberry Plantation in East Khasi Hills District 
This paradigm shift initiated by the department has the potential to propel horticulture as one of the lead sectors in the State. These new initiatives will not suffice if farmers, entrepreneurs and private sector do not actively participate in this vision. The existing gap between the departmental officials and the farmers needs to be bridged, while closer interaction and partnership is the order of the day. The Directorate has also taken the lead in equipping the farmers and entrepreneurs with the best technology and marketing skills through the expertise of the Horticulture Training Centre, Pune, which is a premier training agency in the field of high tech horticulture.
The total cropped area in the State during 2008-09 was 3.37 lakh hectares which is 15.03% of the total geographical area of 22.42 lakh Ha. The net cropped was 2.84 lakh hectares, which is 12.66% of the geographical area. The total area under fruit crops during 2008-09 was 27.02 thousand hectares. Among the fruit crops, the maximum area is under Pineapple (10.53 thousand ha) followed by Citrus (9.36 thousand ha) and banana (6.52 thousand ha). The total area under vegetable crops was 11.94 thousand hectares. As far as spices are concerned, Meghalaya is one of the leading States in Ginger production (area of 9.28 thousand Ha. with production of 50.28 thousand MT) and also one of the leading producers of quality Turmeric (area of 1.9 thousand Ha. and production of 10.04 thousand MT) of a variety known as Lakadong, which has about 7% curcumin content. Arecanut and Cashewnut are leading plantation crops followed by Tea. The total area under plantation crops is 26.86 thousand hectares.
The State’s foray into high value low volume crops, of which Strawberry is the prominent and successful introduction, has changed the economic landscape of the strawberry growers of Ri-Bhoi district. Other crops like like Rose, Liliums, Anthuriums, Carnations, Birds of paradise are also performing extremely well. High value vegetables like Brocoli and colored Capsicum have been introduced and marketed successfully.
Today, the State has successfully set up Horticulture Hubs in all the seven (7) districts of the State with specialisation in flowers and high value vegetables. Each horti hubs will in turn be served by spokes comprising collection centres and crop clusters of surrounding villages within a radius of 10 Km.
The State is organic by tradition and the Directorate has taken steps to introduce organic certification on select horticultural crops. Initially, the organic products can cater to the existing demand in the metro cities, gradually building scale to tap the export markets in the immediate future. The process of organic certification for Tea, Pineapple, Cashewnut, Ginger, Turmeric and Vegetables have been intiated. Organic manures like vermicompost and bio-fertilizers like Rhizobium and Azolla are also being promoted in farmer’s field.
Use of Green house technology, poly-houses, drip and micro irrigation system, water harvesting structures, fertigation, soilless culture are being popularised in order to minimise risk and help farmers overcome the vagaries of nature as well as to standardise quality of produce and reduce economic losses.
Post harvest management, value addition, processing and marketing are the other priority areas that the Department is giving renewed thrust during the 11 Five Year plan period.

( The writer is working as Agriculture Development Officer in the Directorate of Agriculture, Meghalaya and can be contacted at