Coffee the future apple for lower Himachal?
Mandi: If experimental plantation by some progressive and enterprising farmers in the lower belts of the state is any indication, Himachal Pradesh may soon emerge as one of the coffee producing regions in the country. So much so that optimists are even visualizing another revolution in the state, predicting that coffee could be the apple substitute for lower Himachal.
Coffee cultivation had primarily been restricted to southern states of India. However, efforts are being made to popularize its cultivation successfully elsewhere in the country too, Himachal Pradesh being one such state. Agricultural experts claim climatic conditions and land in the lower belt of Himachal are suitable for cultivation of coffee.
Motivated by two incentives – rising domestic demand and attractive prices, Vikram Sharma from Majhauli village in Bilaspur district has been experimenting with the plantation of coffee trees since his visit to Karnataka 10 years ago. He found the climate there identical to that of Bilaspur region of Himachal Pradesh. Seeds of Kenyan, Brazilian and Indian (Kaveri and Hemavati) varieties of coffee were procured and an experimental plantation of 50 plants was done. To his joy, the results were astonishing and he was encouraged to embark upon the new venture on a large scale.
As per Vikas, around 220 coffee trees can be grown in one bigha (1000 sq meter) of land. No irrigation is required as the rain-fed coffee plants flourish in arid, rocky and dry belts also. The trees bear fruit after 3 years of plantation. He is proud to claim that compared to Karnataka, where the yield from one plant is 1kg to 2kg, in Ghumarwi the yield from one plant is 3 kg. He claims that coffee can also prove a boon for Himachal Pradesh in checking environmental degradation as these evergreen leguminous trees enrich the soil by recycling nutrients from deeper layers of earth and effectively prevent soil erosion.
Another progressive farmer from Hamirpur district also ventured into plantation of coffee trees in Samtana village where he grew over 1,000 plants of coffee as a diversification from the traditional cycle of wheat-maize. He has cultivated half hectare of land with coffee. The results have been startling, encouraging for other farmers also to adopt cultivation of coffee plants. Experts claim coffee plantation can be done in Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Mandi, Kangra and Chamba districts.
These farmers are of the view that the state government should take cognizance of their efforts and should encourage plantation of coffee trees in the lower belts of Himachal Pradesh on a large scale to usher in a new coffee revolution.