Kerala

Ornamental blooms turn to compost

Ornamental flowers dumped for composting at an orchid farm in Thiruvananthapuram.

Ornamental flowers dumped for composting at an orchid farm in Thiruvananthapuram.  

Lockdown during wedding season spells ruin for orchid farmers in the State

The Anne Black orchids might have adorned bridal bouquets. The vividly red Heliconia flowers that resemble lobster claws should have lined the aisle of a marriage hall. However, the COVID-19 lockdown has condemned the costly blossoms to be turned to compost in fertilizer pits.

Across farms in Kerala, tonnes of commercially cultivated flowers and ornamental foliage lie heaped up in lonely corners for unceremonious disposal.

The lockdown has put the brakes on social events. In Kerala, the Christian wedding season that usually follows Easter is a significant casuality.

Orders dry up

Madhu Sankar, who grows orchids and ornamental foliage in five acres at Navaikulam, near here, says he is burying flowers worth lakh of rupees every week. The orders have dried up. He has to remove the harvest periodically to salvage the plants and allow for fresh blooms. The farm has to be kept running even in adversity.

Growers like Madhu had created their farms from fallow paddy fields. They had readied the beds, dug artificial ponds for irrigation, set up sprinkler systems and imported new varieties of orchids and ornamental plants at considerable cost.

Most have mortgages to pay, salaries to meet, and the moribund economy shows no sign of reviving anytime soon.

Rule of the snails

Farmhands are at a premium. Cultivators fear that lack of labour and insufficient supply of fertilizers and pesticides might ruin their plantations. Pests, particularly snails, are a perennial menace.

Farmers pay local women ten paise per snail to remove the pests. But, the lockdown has prevented the pickers from coming to farms and the snails now have a free run.

Rahul Raveendran, another grower, says the lockdown has hit small growers most. Many grow orchids on terrace tops. It provides households with an additional income. However, flower aggregators are no more receiving supplies. The outbreak has grounded the movement of orchids to markets in the country and abroad.

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2020 4:12:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/ornamental-blooms-turn-to-compost/article31274754.ece

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