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Turmeric Man of Himachal: Career with Turmeric after Retirement

Amit Bhatt
Amit Bhatt
Col. P.C. Rana demonstrating beekeeping in his farm

Retired Colonel PC Rana is owner of the brand Rana's Organic. He retired after a career of 43 years with the army. He was a black cat commando for a period in his career. He is now 73 years old. He raised NSC with other cadets. He was to retire in  2003, but was given an extension of four years.  He finally retired in 2007. He released his video on FTB.

After retirement he returned to his native village and found that most of the farms were empty and no one was working in them. No one was interested in farming and young generations were not interested in farm work as they were not educated or trained for it. Even those working in farms did not continue and after much investigation he found out that the reason for these desertion were wild animals who devoured everything that was grown here.

He decided that we must grow what these animals will not want to eat and he shortlisted turmeric. He described himself as "Turmeric man of Himachal".

Col. P.C. Rana with curious organic farmers

After zeroing in on turmeric, he went for trips of turmeric cultivator's farms across India for 3 years. He found out that there are 38 varieties of turmeric plants in India. In Himachal alone 3  varieties of Turmeric are grown. He visited every state from Meghalaya in the North East to Kerala in the south. He met a turmeric farmer named Chandra Shekhar in Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh. Chandra Shekhar introduced him to Dr. Prasad who was researching on developing  new varieties of turmeric.

The doctor described to him three components of turmeric. The Curcumin is the main part of turmeric, the more Curcumin you have in your turmeric higher the sales price of your turmeric will be. Turmeric with less than 4% of Curcumin is not fit for export. He found this information of interest and decided to start turmeric farming organically and to export these abroad like these farmers. 

Turmeric Man of Himachal

All this research taught him that it's not possible to grow Turmeric in hilly areas with 3 or more months of snowfall. He surveyed the districts close to his village like Kangra, Chamba, Solan, Mandi, Bilaspur, Hamirpur among others and he finally concluded that turmeric production is possible in these districts. He bought a tonne of turmeric seeds worth Rs 130 per Kg, transportation costs not included.

There are three aspects of growing turmeric for farmers. Firstly it is not grown in the conventional way, second is productivity  as you have invested heavily in seeds or saplings and third is growth time, the duration in which your seeds will grow into plants with big enough rhizomes. The variety of turmeric that he is growing is IISR PRAGATI, then known as ACC 48. When he got his rhizomes tested, the tests indicated that it has 5.2% Curcumin. In first year he was able to produce 24 tonnes of turmeric and he and his farm got popular locally. Even Himachal government has bought 30 tonnes of seeds from him and  a number of farmers have been associated with him for suggestions and training.

He initially sold turmeric in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Aligarh in UP. Most of the farmers he knows are concerned with marketing issues i.e. how will they sell their products and who will buy them. He was the first farmer in Himachal to get his turmeric "Organic Certificate". He takes great pride in describing himself as the first certified Organic farmer of the state. He always aimed to export his turmeric and bring Himachal on the World turmeric map.

The seeds he sells are chemical free and he provides complete guidance and training with demo to the seed buyers. He trains them in land preparation to post harvest activities. He has set two conditions to his seed buyers, firstly they are organic farmers and secondly they must process their turmeric the traditional way. They test the products of these sellers at the local lab for organic verification.  

Col. Rana then describes the process of processing the rhizomes into turmeric powder. You should first boil the rhizomes, chop or slice them into small pieces and then dry them in sun. Finally these are grinded in the traditional aata chakki. This process is not as simple as it seems. When you boil the rhizomes their Curcumin may evaporate or burn out. On sun-drying the UV rays may cause loss of Curcumin in your turmeric. Finally in the chakki the heat kills whatever is left of rest of the Curcumin. So he decided to do this processing himself to avoid the loss of Curcumin content in your turmeric or turmeric based products.    

He first washes and peels the skin off rhizomes. The rhizomes are sterilized for dirt  and venom. These are then sliced manually and  in the end dried in solar driers. Col. Rana is again first to be the owner of a solar drier in Himachal, which keeps the nutrients in the turmeric. They use the traditional water driven chakki for grinding to reduce the heat which causes Curcumin loss.

He said he believes in value addition and he never sells his goods at mandi. The B2C model they follow is farm to kitchen. He said goods sold at mandi give more profit  to the businessmen than to farmers. They have recently been working with 7% Curcumin turmeric. A number of varieties are being evaluated and improved in the labs. They also prepare turmeric pickle from raw turmeric rhizomes. This pickle is supplied to Mumbai, Delhi, Chandigarh, Ahmadabad apart from local cities in Himachal. They sell directly  to customers so as to avoid adulteration.

He is now a role model for the local technology students and even professionals are looking up to him to emulate his business model. He has prepared a model for these youngsters which they can learn and adapt to start their own farming businesses. He said agriculture is not an easy business. You must plan in advance and work according to your financial needs. You should farm only when you believe that you will be able to make sufficient income. He said to achieve significant results you will need to diversify. You can take up animal husbandry and grow cash crops. He said these youngsters will revolutionize farming in Himachal.

His model is now being followed by Universities and Government departments. He said agriculture is not possible without knowledge and he thanked his mentors for teaching  him these concepts.  He produces 5 varieties of pickles including ginger pickle, bitter gourd pickle and owns fruit orchards. 

Finally he talks about his beekeeping business which is again popular across Himachal. These beekeeping boxes are spread over 5 farms and honey production is labour intensive. He has 8 to 10 workers on his farm at a time, whom he has hired for salary up to Rs 7,000 per month.

His business model is now very popular across Himachal. He said anyone interested in turmeric farming or any other branch of agriculture  including animal husbandry can contact him for advice and suggestions. In the end he mentions his contact number: 9817023888. Please click here to see his FTB video for yourself.

Col. P. C. Rana

Col. P. C. Rana

Jawalamukhi, Himachal Pradesh

Owner of Rana's Organic Turmeric

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