Giving a rose to your loved one is the eternal Valentine day symbol but those in Europe have been left out in the cold as exports from Hosur in Tamil Nadu, the rose hub of India saw a sharp dip this year.

Besides a sharp drop in exports, another reason is that Valentine day this year falls on a Sunday when most people would not have a chance to mingle with colleagues, says a top official of Tanflora, India’s largest cut rose exporter at Amudhagondapalli village.

From a high of 1.2 million roses exported last year to the EU, the figure has plumetted to almost zero, the official said, requesting anonymity. However the dismal scenario had been compensated by increased exports to nations like Middle East, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Malaysia and Singapore, he said.

Europe figures high in the list of exports from Hosur region in Dharmapuri district is borne out by officials.

About 100 villages surrounding Hosur have attained top status in rose exports for some time now, an amazing fact, considering that the region was barren just a decade back with farmers eking out a living through rain fed crops like Ragi.

The salubrious climate in the region, 3,000 feet above sea level saw some enterprising farmers take to rose cultivation, soon changing the landscape, as also the lives of farmers.

Now world famous varieties like Tajmahal, an exclusive red rose variant of Tanflora and others like Avalanche, Gold Strike, Discovery, Red Giant, Red Carvette and Tinike are in high demand for Valentines Day, say floriculture farmers.

Around 250 government-aided and 55 private greenhouse cutflower production units are in operation in Hosur and Denkanikotta areas, all of whom adopt the latest technology through greenhouse cultivation, said officials of the Krishnagiri District Horticulture Department.

J. Manjunath, a Hosur-based cut flower merchant, says rose cultivation has turned out be something akin to a cottage industry in the region. “Local farmers have switched over from other crops to rose cultivation as they found it more lucrative,” he said.

Kaliappan, Assistant Director of Krishnagiri Horticulture Department, concurs with this view and says schemes under National Horticulture Mission (NHM) have helped develop cut rose cultivation in the region in the past seven years.

He said 50 per cent subsidy is given under NHM to farmers to grow roses safely in a “polyhouse” structure, costing around Rs 6.5 lakh. Flowers thus grown would be of good quality, pest free and have a stalk size of 80 cm, suitable for exports, he said.

Not content with the numero uno status in rose exports, the district administration plans to offer subsidy under NHM to another 300 polyhouse units in two to three years. Farmers have also taken to large-scale drip irrigation in a bid to cut costs.

Rose cultivators are hoping for a thaw in the numbing temperatures in Europe to see business pick up again and perhaps bring the smiles back to couples, young and old alike.

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