By SARAT SARMA
Nagaon, Oct 25 : The farmers of Dhemaji district are opening up to the concept of a global market. After the success in exporting red rice to the US, they are planning to export lemon (kaji nemu) to Japan.
The district administration will soon sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a Kerala-based export firm to export lemon cultivated in Dhemaji to Japan.
Sources in the district administration today said preliminary work like sample collection, field survey, discussions to settle prices and other relevant processes were completed during a recent visit of a team of exporters. They said the entire process would be completed after a proposed visit of a team from Japan within a month.
Dhemaji deputy commissioner M.S. Manivannan said the initiative was part of the commitment to the farmers who were involved in lemon cultivation under the National Rural Employment Generation Scheme since 2011.
“If everything goes according to plan, the first consignment of lemons could be dispatched this year itself. Like our ongoing red rice export, lemon export could be increased according to need,” he said.
Dhemaji had started export of red rice (organic rice) to the US last year. It has already exported 300 tonnes of red rice till September this year.
“Our farmers have become accustomed to the concept of export. We hope the previous experience will help to make the second mission a success,” said a source in the administration.
Lemon cultivation was launched in five development blocks in the district. “We backed the farmers in floating block-level federations. Now, we will float district-level federations. The exporters will have direct relation with the federation and it will have the authority to fix the minimum support price,” Manivannan said.
The Assam lemon, known for its medicinal use, was traditionally cultivated in the flood-prone Dhemaji district since the soil condition and environment were favourable in the area.
The farmers took up commercial production after the administration assured them that they would be able to get the minimum support price and be provided with a market to sell their produce.
“There was a time when a small lemon orchard in each household was a symbol of prestige. Nowadays, cultivable land is used up for human habitation. The initiative may spur all rural households to take up lemon cultivation again,” said Pranami Taid, a Mising woman in Jonai.
According to the agriculture department records, of the 30,23,700 hectares of cultivated area in Dhemaji, around 25,004 hectares are used for horticulture crops. Of this, around 23,084 hectares were covered under 493 schemes at an estimated expenditure of Rs 670.33 lakh.
“We hope the annual yield will reach 1,65,000kg per hectare and the annual income from lemon is estimated at Rs 230.80 lakh,” said a source in the agriculture department.
Commercial cultivation of lemon is mainly carried out in Nagaon and Morigaon districts and in parts of Sonitpur, Mangaldoi, Barpeta and Nalbari. The Nagaon administration had attempted to export the product to Norway but it did not take off even after signing an agreement with a New Delhi-based export firm.