New Delhi: In a first-of-its-kind move aimed at helping the little noticed guar gum industry, the government and the private sector have joined hands to fund research institutions that will be developing new varieties of the guar seed.
Guar seed is processed into gum, which goes into textile, paper, mining and explosives, among other commodities.
The ministry of commerce and the industry’s trade body, Indian Guar Gum Manufacturers’ Association, have jointly agreed to fund projects at the Haryana Agricultural University in Hisar for developing varieties of the guar seed, which mature early and yield higher produce.
The ministry confirmed that a proposal, which has been submitted under the Market Access Initiative, is with the secretary and will likely receive substantial contribution with the industry having to provide the rest of the funds.
“We will certainly like to participate in the project. The decision will be taken on 4 August,” says G.L. Sarda, president of the association.
The guar seed, a legume which is grown in the arid areas of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, is exported to more than 65 countries, and India is second only to Pakistan in terms of such exports.
Guar gum exports in 2006-07 were valued at Rs1,275 crore with an annual growth rate of 10% and projected to reach Rs2,600 crore by 2011-12.
Although the processed commodity, which is also traded in the forwards market, has been faring well, it is handicapped by low yields.
The Haryana university has already developed hybrid varieties of the seed, which have been used by the state’s farmers to boost yields. Haryana varieties result in a yield of 1,000kg per ha, compared with the average yield of 500-700kg per ha, allowing Haryana to emerge as a stronghold for guar cultivation.
The current species of guar takes 85-150 days to mature and the university is looking to reduce that period.
Jai Vir Singh, who runs the guar project at the university, says a hybrid could potentially cut the maturity period from 85 days to about 55-65 days. If this hybrid is widely used, it will be possible to raise two crops of guar a year (summer and main season), potentially doubling production in the same area, currently estimated at 2.3 million ha.
Boosting guar cultivation is considered significant as it is an arid zone crop with low input cost, which means that the seed can be cultivated in rain-fed areas, serving more marginal farmers.
“We estimate that by the end of the project, more than 75% of the cultivated area will be under the improved variety,” says Debjani Roy, executive director, Shellac and Forest Products Export Promotion Council.
Last year, the council had proposed another project for development and growth of guar production in India, worth Rs43 crore. The commerce ministry has given an in-principle approval to the project.