Violence-hit Kandhamal produces some of world’s best turmeric

October 24th, 2008 - 1:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Phulbani (Orissa), Oct 24 (IANS) Not many know that Kandhamal district, where anti-Christian violence has reared its ugly head in the last two months, produces some of the world’s best organically grown turmeric.What’s more, turmeric production is likely to increase this year due to favourable climatic conditions even as its growers are still hiding in the forests for fear of being arrested for the violence.

More than 50 percent of the over 600,000 people in the forested hill district, some 200 km from state capital Bhubaneswar in this eastern Indian state, depend on turmeric cultivation and they do so by preserving the purity of the soil and their produce.

“Last year the district produced about 9,000 tonnes of turmeric. This year we hope the produce will be more than 10,000 tonnes,” Pramod Patnaik, secretary of the Kandhamal Apex Spice Association for Marketing (KASAM), told IANS.

KASAM is a state-run society that represents traditionally spice-growing indigenous organic farmers in the region involving 61 groups comprising 12,000 members.

“Turmeric cultivation starts in May-June and harvesting is done between December and February,” Patnaik said.

The produce is known as Kandhamal turmeric and it has the best international certification of organic quality. The turmeric business in the district is worth Rs.300 million.

The cultivators are mostly tribal who have been producing turmeric for generations. But many of them have been hiding in the forests lately for fear of arrests ever since anti-Christian attacks erupted in the region.

The violence began after the murder of Hindu saint Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides in the district Aug 23.

While police blamed Maoists for the crime, Hindus blamed Christians for it and attacked them and their property. At least 36 people have been killed and thousands rendered homeless.

“The situation is returning to normal. People who are hiding in the forest will return soon. I don’t think the violence will effect turmeric production. We hope for a better harvest this year,” district collector Krishan Kumar told IANS.

“This year the rain and climate was conducive. When the violence in the district broke the turmeric cultivation was already complete.”

Organic farmers by tradition, turmeric cultivators in Kandhamal have never used synthetic chemical inputs. By adopting modern methods of organic farming they have made their fertile soil the source of the purest, best quality organic spices.

Orissa contributes about 21 percent of India’s turmeric cultivation in terms of area and Kandhamal makes up for over 50 percent of the state’s share.

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