Dhanantri Devi (65) of Sukurhuttu in Kanke block does not have the luxury of collecting gooseberries from the forests. “Every day, I buy 20 kg amla which come from Sasaram, Bihar,” she said.
Others like Malti Kujur (40) and Sarswati Devi (38) travel 70km from Rania block in Khunti district to sell amla every morning. “This season we have been able to earn some extra,” Kujur smiled.
According to Jharkhand State Horticulture Mission, the total production of amla this year in the hinterland was estimated to be around 10,000-15,000 tonne, way more than the 3,000-4,000 tonne logged last year. In 2009-2010 production was even less.
Jharkhand State Horticulture Mission director Prabhakar Singh said amla was ideal for the state. “We have planted amla in special pockets in dry regions, especially in Latehar, Gumla, Lohardaga and Palamau,” he said, adding that over 6,000 acre was being used to grow amla in the state.
“We started working with farmers in 2006 and supported them to grow amla in an organised manner,” he added.
In Jharkhand, February-March is the best time for planting amla and by May-June fresh leaves start appearing on the thorny bushes. By July, August and September, fruits begin to show up. They finally make it to markets in the winter months of end-October, November and December.
In between amla, farmers are known to plant guava and papaya, said Singh.
Vikas Das, a fruit scientist with ICAR, Plandu, said Jharkhand had huge potential in growing gooseberries, which require a mix of dry climate and alkaline soil found in the districts.
“Among the many details we shared with farmers, we asked them to ensure that each tree was planted at a distance of 10 meter from each other. We also recommended two varieties of amla, Kanchan and NS7,” he said.
Apart from selling in open markets and vegetable outlets, farmers have found a new set of customers this year. They are also selling to various NGOs, who have formed women’s self- help groups to make pickles and murabba.