Kochi: Karbis, the indigenous tribespeople of Assam, are set to develop spice gardens across 1,000 acres of land in the backward Karbi Anglong district of the state.
The Spices Board of India, a trade promotion body of the government, is picking up 49% stake in each of the two firms, Coinonya Farms and Karbi Farms, that the small and marginal farmers of this tribe have formed for the cultivation of turmeric, ginger and chilli. According to F.R. Ingty, chairman and managing director of these two companies, formal activities will start on 25 June.
The two companies have an authorized capital of Rs2.05 crore each. According to Spices Board marketing director S. Kannan, the board will pump in Rs1 crore in each of the firms through a government scheme called National Equity Fund Participation (NEFP).
Once the companies are fully capitalized, the farmers will have their own spice oil extraction units in their farms. Besides, the chilli grown by them will be of the hottest variety. The pungency of chilli is measured in scoville heat unit (SHU). The world’s hottest chilli has a pungency of around 0.54 million SHU. The bhut jolokia variety of chilli, to be grown in Karbi, will have a pungency of 1 m SHU.
The funds were allocated during the last fiscal year to ensure that the planting could begin by May, but it has been delayed and the project will finally take off in June.
“Since we did not want to miss the planting season, we began seed collection and planting operations with our own funds and borrowed money. We are also in the process of buying equipment, constructing the approach road to the farm and carrying out minor irrigation work. Over the last three months, we have invested around Rs30 lakh in these activities,” Ingty said. Any delay in fund infusion will spell doom for the project, he added. The companies will train and finance villagers to produce turmeric, ginger, chilli, pepper and other spices, and will market the produce.
The Spices Board has helped the firms forge tie-ups with Kochi-based Arjuna Natural Extracts Ltd, which will lend technical assistance for setting up the oil extraction unit that will initially extract curcumin from turmeric. The Kochi firm has also agreed to buy back the extract, Kannan said.
“Our aim is to establish spice farms in the Hamren subdivision, the most backward area in Assam. The ownership of large tracts of unused and uncultivated land is vested with the local tribes. Our goal is to spread this cultivation to adjoining areas,” Ingty said.