Queen of orchids for queen of hills - one lakh cymbidiums to bloom in mirik by 2012

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 27.08.10
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Siliguri, Aug. 26: Around one lakh plants of cymbidium, known as the queen of orchids, are set to bloom in Mirik in two years, thanks to an export-oriented project by a private company.

The biggest venture of orchid cultivation in the northeastern part of India was initiated by Darjeeling Gardens Private Limited on a two-acre plot at Rato Mate busty in Mirik with the help of 10 small farmers.

“Cymbidiums require low temperature and high humidity, a rare combination that is difficult to be found in other hill towns. Mirik valley provides the optimum requirement of temperature and humidity and is the best place to cultivate cymbidium. Floriculturists in Mirik were growing orchids on a smaller scale. But we have been growing one lakh cymbidiums at our nursery since May last year with the latest technical knowhow,” said Rajesh Chowdhury, the director of Darjeeling Garden.

The ultimate aim of the project is to enable small growers to start large-scale production of the cymbidium to export the flower.

“Although we have engaged 10 local cultivators, technical assistance was provided to more than 100 small farmers. In case we start exporting orchids, we need a regular supply, say 5,000 to 10,000 sticks a week. As the yield in our nursery will not be sufficient to meet consistent demands, we plan to engage the farmers and buy orchids from them so that exports can be continued without any shortage in the supply. The farmers, too, will be apprised of the demand, the desirable yield and the prices their produce would fetch in international markets,” said Chowdhury.

The cymbidium, the most popular orchid worldwide, is beautiful and comes in a variety of colours like white, green, pink, red and mixed shades of yellow and red, and pink and white.

Grown in countries like Australia, New Zealand and Holland, the cymbidium is known to have a long vase life ranging from two to three weeks. The longer vase life gives the flower high ornamental value.

Darjeeling Gardens signed a memorandum of understanding with the Centre For Agro-Business and Floriculture Management (COAFM) of North Bengal University in December to provide technical assistance to the nursery.

Ranadhir Chakraborty, the project manager of the COAFM, said cymbidiums grown in Mirik were of export quality. “However, as the plants are grown on small scale, enough flowers are not available for the export. Darjeeling Gardens is the first grower to start the mass cultivation of the cymbidium in the northeastern part of India. We give the nursery technical assistance in terms of monitoring nutrition requirements, light, temperature, humidity control and pest control,” he added.

Chakraborty said the cymbidiums had a thriving market in Japan, Dubai and European countries for ornamental purpose.

Ten poly-houses have been erected at Rato Mate, 52km from here, to grow the orchids under conditions prescribed by the COAFM.

The saplings are mostly of the Australian and New Zealand variety of cymbidiums and they were purchased from a tissue production centre in Gurgaon. With a gestation period of three-years, the orchids are expected to be in full bloom by October 2012.

“We have already planted over 75, 0000 saplings and 25,000 more will be planted in the coming month. Japan has the biggest market in the world for orchids and we are in talks with a floriculture company there for the exports. We are trying to develop market linkages in Mumbai and Bangalore where the cymbidium is in demand. At present, the cymbidiums fetch Rs 150 to Rs 200 per stick in the international market and less than Rs 100 in the domestic market,” said Chowdhury.