| A pineapple plantation |
Silchar, Oct. 17: An Assam government agency has proposed a scheme to increase the output of the famous pineapples of Hmarkhawlien village on the Assam-Manipur border, 25km from here, to make the farmers there financially self-sufficient.
Employment Generation Mission, which was set up by Dispur recently to provide gainful employment to people in the state, will chisel the scheme at its headquarters in Guwahati in league with a committee that was formed at Hmarkhawlien on Saturday following a high-level meeting with pineapple farmers.
The committee, headed by Cachar deputy commissioner H.K. Deb Mahanta, comprises a village elder, Vanlalriet Tuolor, representatives of Lakhipur subdivisional administration and officials of banks and the Mission.
The Missionís project manager for horticulture, Smita Chetia Talukdar, said the pineapple enclave at Hmarkhawlien, whose farmers grow this sweet and tangy fruit as their only source of living, would be given a hefty financial boost and scientific farming expertise.
A.K. Absar Hazarika, the project director of the Mission, has made it clear to the more than 8,000 pineapple growers of Hmarkhawlien that the Missionís objective would be to chart out an avenue to boost the annual rate of output of this juicy fruit in the area.
After this, attention would be paid to integrated and systematic marketing of the fruit so that the growers have adequate funds of their own before the onset of the two pineapple seasons óin June and October.
Talukdar said the Mission had taken note of the plight and perennial distress of the pineapple growers of Hmarkhawlien, which is inhabited by the Hmars, after a report was published in The Telegraph on September 4.
Hazarika said the pineapple growers were exploited by the fruitís wholesalers in Cachar district who gave loans to the farmers at a high interest on the commencement of each farming season and then fleeced them by lifting the fruits at a very low rate. This vicious circle, leading to penury, continued for years.
Citing an example, he said the moneylenders-cum-traders buy the large pineapples, measuring above 14 inches, at a meagre price of Rs 8 per piece while they sell the same at Rs 20.
Hazarika said the scheme aimed to save the cultivators from exploitation and make them self-sufficient.
Talukdar said the scheme envisaged the preparation of a financial package under which banks would advance low-interest loans to cover 60 per cent of the total cost of growing the fruit, the government subsidy would be pegged at 30 per cent and 10 per cent would be the farmerís investment.
B.C. Nath, subdivisional officer of Lakhipur subdivision, said about two lakh pineapples were annually produced in Hmarkhawlien and its adjoining areas.
The farming of pineapples at Hmarkhawlien, which began in 1932 under the patronage of Welsh Baptist pastor James Roberts, is carried out in a totally organic manner.
Hazarika also stresses the need to impart training to pineapple farmers, set up a processing plant, distil the juice, which will have sugar content ranging from 16 and 18 per cent, and bottle it into cans for marketing in the country and overseas.
Talukdar said proper arrangements should be made to set up a pineapple processing plant at Hmarkhawlien in the co-operative sector for manufacturing canned juice, jam and jelly for value-addition of the product. She said this would turn out to be a cash-spinning enterprise for the Hmars.