After much deliberation, the Himachal Pradesh government has agreed to start asafoetida (Heeng) farming in the cold desert of Lahaul Spiti which has suitable environment for growing the most sought after spice in India.
Asafoetida, which is used in almost all the dishes in the country, would now be grown in Lahaul Spiti and recently, the government distributed seeds among local farmers.
The seeds were distributed by Agriculture minister Ram Lal Markanda and Coffee Board of India member Vikram Sharma who was pursuing the issue of farming of commercial crops to improve the economy of farmers.
Sharma had procured the asafoetida seeds from Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan and was continuously approaching the state as well as the Central government for starting its farming in Himalayan states since the last few years.
“The mountainous regions of Himalayan states as Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh Uttarakhand and Himachal are suitable for the farming of spice,” Sharma told The Statesman.
He said under the initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to double the income of the farmers, many new researches are being conducted and information is being disseminated on farming of commercial crops.
“The asafoetida farming could also result in improving the economy of farmers as it is one of the costliest spices and is most sought after in the country,” he said.
It could also result in curbing migration of the local population from tribal district, he added. Sharma said he had recently met Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and had urged him to support the issue to which the CM had assured full support.
“It was the result of support of the government Agriculture and Tribal Development minister Ram Lal Makranda launched the initiative in the Udaipur area of Lahaul Spiti district,” he said. Apart from Lahaul Spiti, high altitude regions surrounding of Janjehli in Mandi district, Tissa in Chamba district and Kinnaur district are suitable for its farming.
The government is likely to take up the farming in these areas too on experimental basis. “There is immense potential for farming of commercial crops in Himachal which would provide additional employment opportunities to unemployed youth of the state,” he added.
Asafoetida is used in spices and medicines in India and besides this, the international value crop has high demand in the pharmaceutical sector.
The self pollinating asafoetida plant is native of higher altitude regions or in cold deserts and the crop is generally harvested during the period from August to October.
Heeng or Asafoetida is extracted from the roots of the plant by carefully placing a cut on the rhizome part of the root once the stem is uprooted, then the milk that oozes out of the rhizome is collected and carefully stored in plastic containers.
The milk of asafoetida is generally sun dried either by the farmers or by companies dealing in this product.
India presently consumes 40 per cent of total production of crop that is produced worldwide.