Scope for entering Global market
Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food – Hippocrates, 431 BC
Spices are plant products in the form of fresh, ripe, fruit, seed, root, bark etc. that contributes aroma, taste, colour, flavour, seasoning and pungency to foods and are generally small volume high value plant products that play an important role right from kitchen for providing colour, taste and flavour coupled with acting as an important ingredient in manufacturing of herbal medicines. Everyone will agree that there is not even a single meal without spices and 80% of herbal medicines manufactured in India also include either one or more spices.
Allium odorum L. belonging to Alliaceae family, locally known as Maroi nakupi is a kind of leek, growing about 15 to 25 cm height, leaves are green, narrowly linear, flattish, 3 to 6 mm wide. looks like a grass is an important perennial, draught resistant, fast growing, quickest income generating spice; nevertheless the cheapest amongst all the spices grown in Manipur and comparatively easiest to cultivate. Random survey conducted reveals that 75% of the products traded in Imphal Khwai Bazar (Ema Keithel) are the produces from Imphal East District, Manipur. We are very fortunate to have this luxuriantly grown spice available all the year round that can be harvested within the shortest duration of 15 -20 days from the date of planting during summer/rainy season and 25-30 days during winter. Due to adoption of new farming technologies and creation of modern infrastructures the yields have been enhanced considerably from the traditional system of farming. The yield per acre (4046 sq.mtr area) is around 1280 bundles equivalent to 1920 – 2304 kgs (weighing about 1.5-1.8 kgs per bundle). Therefore, total harvest from one acre (two cuttings) per month works out to be 2,560 bundles. The present market rate ranges from Rs.12-15 per bundle at the farm gate which is cheaper during rainy season because of faster and luxuriant growth. The gross income from one acre of land is around Rs.30,720 per month. After deducting the cost of maintenance and input cost for one acre @Rs.6,720 approximately, the net income earned per month is Rs.24,000 during summer and Rs.15,000-18,000 during winter. No wonder, there is every reason to justify that a farmer cultivating Maroi nakupi can earn a minimum of Rs.2.34 lakhs approx. per acre in a year. But there are also times of market glut causing wastages and disposal at consumers; price. Although, this spice is abundantly available in Manipur, it is either very rare or not available in the mainland markets of the country. This could be the reasons that Allium odorum has not yet been enlisted in the list of 52 spices published by Spices Board of India, under the Ministry of Commerce and Industries Govt.of India.
Nutritional & Medicinal values of Maroi nakupi:
Maroi nakupi a cholesterol free spice / vegetable have been using in different forms as a spice/ vegetable or as medicinal herb in Manipur since time immemorial. As spice or as vegetable it is consumed raw / fresh / cooked or boiled besides consuming as salads and soups. The young well grown leaves are very tender and delicious, widely used in various dishes in Oriental cooking in South Asian Countries.
From the validation of scientific studies it is reportedly known that this spice comprise more vitamin A than any other Alliaceae family member spices. In addition, the green leaves contain antioxidants such as carotenes, zea-xanthin, and lutein. Together, these compounds help human body to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
This spice also have some other essential vitamins such as vitamin C, and K, in fact; this spice is one of the richest sources of vitamin K which has a potential role in bone health by strengthening and promoting bone formation. Adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limiting neuronal damage in the brain; thus, has established a leading role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Consumption of Maroi nakupi in daily diet 100gm per day per meal has been reported to aid digestion and stimulate appetite.
- help the body in digestion of fatty foods and in reducing body weight.
- for those suffering from tiredness and fatigue, consuming this spice can be a good remedy.
- it decreases blood vessel stiffness and helps in the reduction of the total blood pressure.
- externally this spice can be applied to treat insect bites, cuts and wounds.
- this spice is good for treating problems associated with the kidney, liver and the digestive system.
- regular consumption has shown lowering cholestrol when included in a balanced diet.
Potentials & Scope for agri-business:
Can any R&D Institutes in the state or scientists / scholars suggest any alternative crop that can generate income equally or more than this spice in the shortest duration of 15-20 days? Even the package and practices of cultivation of this spice has not yet been included in any Indian Agricultural University. Therefore, definitely the answer must be NO. It is a wise initiative and optimistic approach that few young self-supported, educated entrepreneurs have started farming of this spice and could generate a profitable income. However, presently farming have been undertaken mainly by the small landholders not in a commercial scale. The reason could be due to none availability of suitable land or fear of market glut in absence of regulated market in the state not the least lack of credit support from financial Institutions. However, there is no doubt, if there is a regular buy back arrangement, potentials are there for production of the required quantities because of suitable agro-climatic condition i.e. ready to harvest in 15-20 days. This has created new processing opportunities for developing rural economies with the appropriate agro-climatic conditions, high production potential, and low production costs. As this spice / vegetable cannot be stored for more than 3-4 days under ambient condition, the only alternative to exploit this rich potential is dehydration/ drying. Demands are so huge for such nutritive and medicinal herb. Therefore, there is ample scope of entering Global market provided all the areas under farming of this spice is brought under organic certification and could be properly and scientifically dehydrated, labeled and packed as organic product to use it for preparing salad, soup or herbal tea optionally by mixing suitably one or two other spices to add more flavor and taste. Internationally, a shift towards traditional / ethnic medicines is an essential factor contributing to the growth of organic cultivation. Since spices constitute an important ingredient of many medicines, the demand for organically produced spices is also increasing.
The principle of preservation of foods by dehydration process is to remove the moisture content of a material to a level where micro-organism may not be able to grow and spoil it. Dehydration of fruits and vegetables also lowers the cost of packaging, storing, and transportation by reducing both the weight and volume of the final product. Given the improvement in the quality of dehydrated foods, along with the increased focus on instant and convenience foods, the potential of dehydrated fruits and vegetables is greater than ever. Dehydration of vegetables by sun drying is the oldest known method. Now modern techniques have been developed for dehydration of vegetables / spices. In this process, the dehydrated product has better flavour, colour, aroma, rehydration acceptability, etc. in comparison to sun- dried dehydrated products. The latest technique for dehydration of vegetables known as Osmotic Dehydration has been developed by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai.
To begin with, for domestic market promising Agripreneurs and SHGs can start dehydration with proper packaging in suitable containers. Fabricated Solar Dryers are now available at affordable price. For setting up a commercial unit there is provision for availing financial support to the tune of 50% on the cost of plant & machineries and civil works as back ended subsidy under Mini-Mission IV of the Technology Mission for Integrated Dev. of Horticulture from the Ministry of Food Processing Industries GOI and Venture Capital Assistance to the tune of 40% of Promoter’s contribution from Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC). For more details on project guidelines, plant & machineries login http://catalogs.indiamart.com/products/vegetable-dehydration-plant.html
Our farmers are very intelligent and do not require further technologies for profitable farming of Maroi nakupi, but what is required at the moment is post-harvest technologies with special focus on processing and packaging without losing taste and flavour at the affordable cost. Therefore, there is a felt need for intervention of the R&D Institutes housed at Imphal for exploiting the rich plant bio-resources of the region in particular for economic upliftment of the farming communities.