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Farmer strikes gold with flowers

- Bangalore trip inspires history graduate to grow gerberas

The next time you see wedding venues bedecked in colourful gerberas, chances are the blossoms have been sourced from a polyhouse at Janipur village, around 15km west of Patna.

Dilip Kumar Maharaj, 32, has scripted a success story growing gerberas on his half-acre plot in Patna district. The profit — around Rs 80,000 per month — from the commercial cultivation of gerberas have not only brought a smile on Maharaj’s lips but also encouraged other farmers (mostly marigold cultivators earning between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000 a month) to approach the entrepreneur for guidance.

“The polyhouse has a polythene shade to protect plants from the ultraviolet rays of sun and grow high-value agricultural products. Gerbera plants require controlled wet and dry conditions,” said Maharaj.

Speaking on what inspired him to grow gerberas, Maharaj, a history graduate from Patna University who does not have a degree in agriculture, said: “Two years ago, I visited Bangalore and saw farmers earning handsome profit from gerbera cultivation on a large-scale. The Bihar government provides farmers 90 per cent subsidy for polyhouse and drip irrigation. One needs an investment of around Rs 37,40,000 for setting up a good polyhouse and drip irrigation facility on an acre. With the state government providing 90 per cent funds, farmers need to spend Rs 4 lakh only.”

Guided by Maharaj, Rahul Singh, a resident of Gaunpura village, is set to start gerbera cultivation on his 1.5-acre land.

Maharaj said: “Wholesale florists source gerberas from Pune and Bangalore at present. Patnaites have to buy the stale flowers at Rs 10 to Rs 20 a piece, the transportation cost doubling or trebling its actual price.”

On his sales, Maharaj said: “I find it difficult to meet the demand. Almost all wholesalers want to buy my gerberas, as they are fresher than the ones sourced from Pune and Bangalore. Many farmers have approached me for guidance. Bihar will soon be able to meet its own demand for gerberas.”

District horticulture officer Nitesh Kumar said: “Maharaj has become the role model for Bihar farmers. I hope many farmers will take inspiration from him and take up gerbera cultivation. Maharaj also cultivates red and yellow capsicum in his polyhouse.