CASH CABBAGE: A vendor sells broccoli near Ranchi University on Wednesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Broccoli is all set to become rural Jharkhand’s winter money-spinner.
Around 150 farmers are undergoing intensive training to grow the Vitamin C-rich vegetable in Nagri, Bero and Thakurgaon areas of Ranchi district, courtesy National Horticulture Mission. The programme, which began two months ago, will be wrapped up in another week after which farmers will grow and market their produce.
Indigenously cultivated broccoli will be sold only through Vegfed outlets. Mission officials said this would serve a dual purpose: one, it will stop exploitation of poor farmers by middlemen; and two, fair price for the crop will magnanimously boost the sagging rural economy.
Currently, broccoli is brought to Jharkhand from Delhi and other parts of the country and sold at Rs 120 per kg at local marts, like Daily Market and Kutchery Market, and also at retail outlets.
Prabhakar Singh, the director of the state chapter of the National Horticulture Mission, said winter weather in Jharkhand, particularly in high altitude districts like Ranchi, was favourable for cultivation of the vegetable, which belongs to the cabbage family.
“India is the second largest producer of broccoli after China, while the US ranks third. So, we are looking forward to growing the vegetable in abundance in our own state because the environment here is conducive. Two months ago, we approached farmers who were interested in growing this vegetable instead of cabbage and cauliflower. Broccoli can fetch a good market price and will support them financially in the future,” he said.
Singh added that they were promoting the not-so-popular vegetable because it can become an economic game-changer. “At present, the market price of broccoli is around Rs 120 per kg. We plan to sell our indigenous basket at Rs 50-60 per kg, so that the common man can afford it too.”
Mission officials said the training was focussing on planting methods, harvesting, packaging, storage and insect management.
Broccoli is a cool-weather crop that does poorly in sultry climate. It grows best when exposed to an average daily temperature between 18°C and 23°C. When the cluster of flowers — also referred to as head — appears at the centre of the broccoli plant, it is green. Garden pruners or shears are used to cut the head about an inch from the tip. Broccoli should be harvested before the flowers on the head bloom bright yellow.
“The programme has already been fruitful. Around 20 farmers, after initial training, are cultivating broccoli on an experimental basis,” said a mission official.
Singh confirmed that the training would end within a week and make way for mass-scale production of the vegetable in the state. “Since storage tips were imparted during the programme, we are also planning to set up a state-of-the art packaging facility,” he added.
If the state horticulture mission director is looking forward to reducing market risk for farmers and motivating them to embrace the broccoli, Vegfed officials are no less elated.
R.N. Jha — the managing director of Vegfed who is working in close co-ordination with state agriculture mandarins — confirmed that 15 outlets would shortly open in the capital to sell the produce. “Since we will sell broccoli and other vegetables through our outlets, we are working in tandem with the horticulture mission. Elaborate plans are being chalked out to sell broccoli at optimum price for everyone’s benefit,” he said.