By Sarada Lahangir
Birampur (Orissa), April 23 : It's been about two decades when many farmers in some tribal pockets of Orissa were persuaded to take up sunflower cultivation apart from traditional crops like rice and wheat. Today, the initiative is yielding good returns.
Many farmers in State's Boudh and Kalahandi districts and some other places are delighted since they are today better off after taking up sunflower cultivation. The crop has proved the most profitable cash crop.
"When I came to Boudh as a Rural Agriculture Officer in 1991 from Kalahandi, no sunflower cultivation was done in the area. I thought that such a crop can help the local people financially and also develops the land. I decided to propagate cultivating sunflower here," said Purnachand Gaiguria, the Agriculture Overseer with Additional Seed Sale Centre in Birampur.
"Initiallly (in 1992), the cultivation was started with merely two to three farmers practicing it in the district, which later grew into five to seven farmers. By 1996 we extended it to 100 acres," he added.
The geo-physical aspects of Orissa, make cultivation of sunflower very appropriate. There is plenty of water from River Mahanadi .
The farmers alternated sunflower and paddy initially. Today, one can see many smiling faces in these Districts since the farmers are getting better prices from sunflower vis- -vis traditional paddy.
"We have been gradually growing sunflower. In our village, nearly 500 to 1,000 acres of land is being used for its cultivation and over 40 farmers are dependent upon this kind of cultivation. It's been going on since the past 12 years in our village here", said Narendra Kumar Sahu, a local farmer of Birampur.
"Over the past four years, many farmers have paid serious attention to growing sunflower by investing rupees 1,500 to 2000 per acre. The return is worth rupees 10,000," he added.
Nearly 600 acres of land has been devoted to sunflower cultivation in Boudh District alone.
"We are able to get 10 tins of oil from one acre of cultivation. Out of this, we sell eight tins of oil at rupees 8,000 and the remaining two tins are kept for our own consumption. As a result, we are earning more profit from the cultivation of sunflower as compared to paddy crops. Moreover, we have to put in less effort and labour as compared to the paddy cultivation," said Lala Behera, one of the cultivators, Birampur, Boudh in Orissa.
According to the current prices, a kilogram of sunflower oil is sold at prices ranging from rupees 80 to rupees 100.
More and more farmers are now taking up sunflower cultivation.