Himachal Pradesh will have its first ‘Grain to Glass’ project, if the investment proposal of an NRI from Poland, who originally hails from Kangra district, to produce world’s first organic Himalayan single malt whisky in the state translates on ground.
The Polish spirits producer Neilson Europe intends to invest Rs 200 crore for the unit and is eyeing for cultivation of high quality exotic Barley (the main ingredient) in cold desert of Lahaul Spiti in HP by engaging farmers.
Barley grown in the snowline of Lahaul Spiti is of high quality and disease free.
“The NRI Gaurav Rajput met me and expressed the desire to grow Barley in Lahaul Spiti, as the climatic conditions there are perfect. His company has already signed a MoU for distillery in Himachal. We are working out the possibilities as to how to engage the farmers. It could be contract farming or any other way,” Agriculture minister, Ram Lal Markanda told The Statesman.
Markanda represents Lahaul Spiti tribal segment in the state Assembly.
Barley is grown in abudance in the cold desert, but is mostly used for local consumption or livestock.
“However, the private company engaged in production of whiskies will give them seed of a special variety (that they say will be imported from Scotland) for cultivation. Normally, the farmers are taking Rs 40-45000 for cultivation on one bigha. We will work it out in the best interest of farmers,” he said.
He said since the private company would have a requirement of 20 tonnes Barley per month, the farmers in Lahaul Spiti, Pangi (Chamba) or even parts of Kinnaur, whichever region is suitable, could be involved in the cultivation of crop for the whisky plant.
It will be a kind of boost for the economy of farmers in Lahaul Spiti, which remains cut off from rest of the state and from within for six months in a year due to snow on Rohtang Pass (that connects Lahaul to Kullu) and Kunzum Pass (that connects Lahaul with Spiti).
The area just has one crop season with five effective months to earn profits from agriculture. The Lahaul valley as such is known for cultivation of seed potato, but that too has gone down over the years for various reasons.
“The geographical and climatic conditions of Himachal Pradesh are at par with the Scotland and many other European regions, which make the venture special. It will be the first Grain to Glass project which will directly benefit over 200 local farmers,” said Gaurav Rajput.