Udhagamandalam: Introduced during the latter part of the nineties as an alternative economic activity when the crisis in the tea industry was at its peak and later promoted as a source of additional income, floriculture in the Nilgiris is yet to establish firm roots.
This is despite the fact that the conditions in the district are ideal for cultivating a wide variety of flowers, particularly carnations and the government is extending help in many ways through Central and state-sponsored schemes.
While many of those engaged in the activity claim that the returns are not up to their expectations and hope that a loan waiver scheme will be implemented, bankers say since even those who are doing well are not prompt in repaying loans “we are apprehensive about advancing fresh loans to promote the activity”.
However, officials claim that the progress of floriculture in the district is healthy. Assistant Director of Horticulture A.J. Jagadeesh Kumar told The Hindu that so far 52 hectares had been brought under floriculture. During the current fiscal it is proposed to increase the area by 16 hectares.
The number of flower growers in the district now is about 500 and the production per annum is around 25 lakh stems. Stating that the potential is enormous, Mr. Kumar said about 500 hectares could be brought under flowers over the next 10 years.
He said problems relating to planting materials have been tackled with the setting up of two production units in the Nilgiris itself.
However, marketing continues to be a source of concern. The growers are facing problems in getting payments from buyers, especially those based in Bangalore.
It is estimated that as on date the outstanding is about Rs. 4 to 5 crore. Pointing out that the department was doing its best to draw the growers to the Flower Auction Centre here, Mr. Kumar lamented that the response was not encouraging because the growers feared that if they started patronising the auction centre, they would not be able to collect their outstanding dues from the buyers.
The possibility of using new growers to make the auction centre serve its purpose is being explored.
However, with things looking up on the tea front and difficulties encountered in getting loans, farmers are now not as eager as they were a few years ago in establishing floriculture units.