Agriculture World

Stevia Cultivation is Opening Up New Avenue for Crop Diversification in Uttar Pradesh

stevia

A decade ago, Ram Bahadur Yadav, 48, a resident of Chhaprey village in Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh was a depressed man. He was not unable to clear the civil services entrance exam and was struggling for a good job. But at present, he is one of the farmers engaged in stevia cultivation in the state and doing well from it.

Ram Bahadur says, “I was unable to decide what type of a job I should take up to lead a rewarding & respectable life. Then one day, I met an agricultural scientist who suggested me to go for stevia cultivation”.

He told that the scientist asked me to start growing stevia in my farms and this would reimburse for any monetary loss I might have suffered. Acting on his suggestion, I began stevia farming in 2012 and have not looked back since then.

Bahadur grows stevia on 5 acres of land and earns a net income of around Rs 2 lakh / acre per crop. The plant is very much sweet and has a natural calorie-free extract, which is used as an organic sweetener. He told “Its herbs get ready for harvesting in 3 months. This way, I get 3 to 4 crops every year”. The farmer added that it was because of this income that he could fund the education of his children.

It seems as if stevia cultivation is opening up a new avenue for crop diversification in UP, a state that has traditionally been known for sugar production. Many enterprising farmers are experimenting with stevia that is considered a viable alternative to sugar. It must be noted that the crop has a growing market, since more & more health conscious people are avoiding white sugar and looking for organic alternatives.

stevia

SB Sharma, Director of horticulture said, “Globally, there is a growing demand for organic sweeteners, including those made from stevia extract, as the number of diabetics is increasing rapidly. This has opened up opportunities for farmers in UP also.”

He added that stevia was already being cultivated in many districts but by a limited number of growers.

He further said, “We know at least 2 farmers in Meerut, 1 in Sultanpur, 6 in Barabanki, 5 each in Sitapur & Bulandshahr and 12 in Lakhimpur Kheri. They all grow stevia on more than 30 acres of land in UP.  The number could be much higher as we do not have a record of all stevia growers”.

Lack of awareness, an obstruction

An MBA pass-out & resident of Karnamipur village in Sultanpur, Vinay Kumar Shukla  said he had to stop stevia cultivation around 6 years back when the demand dropped following rumours that it contained a carcinogenic substance.

He told, “I switched to medicinal plants & since then have been unable to gather courage to resume stevia cultivation, although I still feel that its good crop”.

Many growers believe that stevia is more lucrative than sugarcane but lack of awareness, training & marketing facilities has been hampering its cultivation in the state.

Another farmer, Rahul of Shahpur Roheta village of Meerut district has been growing stevia since 2014. He said, “Stevia has the potential to replace sugarcane as a feasible alternative in Uttar Pradesh. However, it needs a much-needed push from the government.”

 

He further said, “Stevia is a fantastic short duration cash crop & seems to have a bright future taking into consideration how the demand for white sugar is declining across the world. But in UP, the problem is that growers don’t get the right price because of lack of awareness & marketing channels.”

Expressing a similar fear, Ram Bahadur told he had been supplying stevia leaves to a trader in Lucknow at a (comparatively lower) price of Rs 150 per kg. He said, “However, from this year onwards, I have decided to supply the product directly to mills in Himachal Pradesh that will fetch me a better price”.



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Krishi Jagran Marketing
Krishi Jagran