| A lemon plantation in Nagaon. A Telegraph picture |
May 13: The lemon juice in a Norwegian’s zucchini soup may soon be from an orchard in Nagaon, where farmers are awaiting a juicy deal to take their fruit to European markets.
A delegation from Norway recently came shopping to Nagaon for lemons that will be sold by farmers through the local administration.
An export company, Shimla Hills Offering Pvt Ltd, is the intermediary.
Once the lemons reach the Norwegian shore, they will be processed and the juice will be sold in European markets.
A source in the Nagaon agriculture department said the Shimla Hills Offering Pvt Ltd will sign a formal memorandum of understanding with the department, following which the purchasing procedure will begin.
“We are going to form a federation of the lemon farmers, to be named Hortfed. The federation will have its infrastructure, like cold storage, godown and a separate office. Lemon farmers will store their products there and the company will buy the lemons from Hortfed,” the source said.
Thanks to a favourable climate, lemon grows abundantly in central Assam.
Nagaon alone produces 1,897 metric tonnes of Assam lemon, known for its flavour.
“So far, 33 groups of farmers grew lemon on 458 hectares of horticultural land with help from the department’s technology mission. This year, we hope to include another 150 hectares using another 12 such groups.
The Nagaon District Rural Development Agency has targeted another 100 hectares in Puranigudam, Pakhimoria, Borhampur, Kothiatoli, Samaguri and Ambagan for lemon plantation under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,” said the nodal officer of Nagaon technology mission for integrated development of horticulture, Prafulla Mahanta.
Though production was never a problem, finding a lucrative market for lemon proved the biggest hurdle for Nagaon farmers, Mahanta said. “Till this year, farmers sold lemons for Rs 2 or Rs 3 during the peak season. We hope to increase the rate to Rs 6,” he said.
“There is a big potential of lemon cultivation in the zone. If the proposed Hortfed gives any hope of a better market, that might influence others to engage in commercial cultivation of lemon in the district,” said Jyoti Borua of Chapanala.
Former deputy commissioner of neighbouring Karbi Anglong, M. Angamuthu, who had helped promote ginger export in the district, praised the farmers for their work during a recent visit to Nagaon and stressed on the importance of technical and financial support to those engaged in lemon cultivation.