Chiraito growers switch to other crops as prices fallChiraito growers in the district are switching to more profitable crops due to decreasing prices and lack of market access.
Chiraito growers in the district are switching to more profitable crops due to decreasing prices and lack of market access.
Farmers started cultivating the medicinal herb nearly a decade ago, but they are now forced to look for alternatives.
Jay Ram Tamang of Maipokhari-4 used to produce 480kg of chiraito worth Rs300,000 annually. Now, he produces just 20kg of the herb. Another farmer, Pemgalze Sherpa of Maimajuwa, produced only 240kg this year from 720kg a year ago.
Majority of the farmers have cut production as they fail to get a reasonable price. They have stocked last year’s harvest hoping for a better price. The herb is trading at Rs10,000 to Rs12,000 per 40 kg. “Farmers used to receive fair returns, but the market uncertainty has increased their plight in recent days,” said Sherpa.
Two years ago, 40kg of chiraito fetched Rs30,000 to Rs35,000. Although the cultivation season has started, farmers have not yet sown seeds.
India’s Siliguri, Kolkata and Delhi are the major markets for the herbs produced in the district. Stakeholders said monopoly of the Indian traders and adulteration by farmers and local traders are the main reasons behind the falling prices.
Majority of the farmers in northern parts of the district had started cultivating chiraito as an alternative to large cardamom after pests destroyed large cardamom crops.
Lower chiraito price has motivated the farmers to return to cardamom, expand kiwi fruits farm and daity farming. The farmers said the chiraito cultivation area, which stood at 6,000 ropanies in 12 VDCs a few years ago, has shrunk now shrunk by half.
Total export of the herb amounted to Rs390 million in the last fiscal. “The downfall in price will lead to a decline in both production and income this year,” said Krishna Pahadi, a local farmer.