Ram Saran Varma of Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh has trebbled his farm income by going for commercial crops
Few progressive farmers in Bara Banki district of Uttar Pradesh are on a different trajectory of the financial boom by diversifying from traditional farm produce and in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki district.
After facing huge losses, Ram Saran Varma of Daulatpur village in Barabanki district, about 50 kms from Lucknow, had shifted from traditional farming to commercial farming. He turned his 15 acres farm house into a banana orchard and within two years, Varma doubled his farm income from Rs 12 lakh to 25 lakh a year.
Unlike other farmers, Varma did not stop here. He keeps on thinking of increasing his profits from the banana orchard by planting new varieties of the fruit. His income from the orchard has now touched Rs 30 lakhs a year. “But I was not satisfied. There was still scope for getting more money by increasing the yield and planting new varieties which were not available in Uttar Pradesh,” said he.
Last year he had attended a fruit exhibition in Delhi where he saw Red Banana. Varma was thrilled to see the new variety. He sought all details about the Red Banana from the Tamil Nadu growers. He first made soil at his farm ready for the new variety and then bought 400 saplings of Red Banana from a Pune-based nursery.
After 16 months, the Red Banana has started giving yields from this year. “I am amazed at the size, colour, taste and the nutritious value of Red Banana. They sell on almost double the prize of the usual green and yellow banana,” said he.
Red Bananas are grown in Australia, the USA, Mexico and West Indies where soil and climatic conditions suit the plants. In India, it is grown only in few parts of Tamil Nadu. In Northern India, Varma is the first banana planter who has successfully grown Red Banana in Barabanki district.
“I am too happy to have the first yield of Red Bananas in my orchard. Now I have decided to plant more Red Banana trees to increase my income,” said Varma.
According to Indian Dietary Association (IDA), Red Banana contains more fibre, iron, potassium and vitamins than green-yellow banana. Its peel is red while the pulp is usually yellow. The pulp contains less sugar and is beta carotene-rich good for diabetes, cancer and heart patients. Today a large number of orchard owners and banana planters from different parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are making a beeline at the farm of Varma to take valuable tips from him about planting Red Banana.
“I had never heard or seen Red Banana. After seeing Varmaji growing the same, I came all the way from Bhagalpur to learn the planting techniques from him,” said Umesh Kumar, a banana planter. In Bihar, Bhagalpur and Hajipur are two major banana growing centres.
Kumar said that he had heard of Red Banana but never tried to plant any trees, not confident about the soil and climatic condition of Bhagalpur. “But after seeing Varmaji growing it successfully, I am also going to plant Red Banana at my farm, since soil and climatic condition of Bhagalpur is similar to that of Bara Banki,” said Kumar, who owns a big banana plantation farm.
Banana lovers in Lucknow were surprised when Varma’s Red Banana hit the market. “I am diabetic and suffer from heart ailments. I was surprised to find the Red Banana on my fruit seller’s shelf. Even though it cost me more than the usual yellow banana but I bought a dozen after making inquiries from my dietician about its nutritious value,” said Sudhir Saxena, a buyer in Lucknow.
With his new variety, Varma is expecting to take his income from Banana orchard to Rs 45 lakh this year with aim of taking it to Rs 60 lakh next year by planting 2,000 more Red Banana plants in his farm.
Another farmer in the district, Pankaj Varma diversified from traditional farming to growing vegetables organically. Within two years, the 35-year-old Pankaj doubled his income from his two acres of land.
Pankaj now grows green bell pepper (Shimla Mirch), tomatoes and other leafy green vegetables which are much in demand in the market. He claimed that he saves Rs 3 to 4 lakh from growing Green Bellpepper alone, since it sells at a high price. “I grow my vegetables traditionally using organic fertilisers to reduce the cost,” claimed Pankaj.
“Success came my way and now I earn Rs 8 to 10 lakh a year from growing Shimla Mirch, tomatoes and leafy green vegetables,” said Pankaj.
To cut the cost, Pankaj uses drip irrigation and latest mulching techniques to save on the irrigation and labour costs to increase his profits. “It has turned into a cash crop for me. I sow Shimla mirch in September and the yield is ready by January. I sell my produce in Lucknow to reduce my transportation cost,” claimed Pankaj. After tasting success, Pankaj is now planning to buy more land to grow yellow, red, white and purple bell pepper which are much in demand in the market and sell on much higher prices than the green ones. “I have already applied for the loan and sought financial technical assistance from the district horticulture department,” claimed Pankaj.
Bara Bank is fast turning into a centre known for commercial farming of exotic vegetables, fruits and flowers. It has more poly-houses than any other districts of Uttar Pradesh. “They all have adopted new techniques and diversified from traditional farming to taste success. Lucknow is just 5 kms from here and that is the biggest advantage they have to sell their produce at a higher price with less cost,” said JK Singh, Bara Bank District Horticulture Officer.
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