India is the largest producer of limes and lemons in the world with an estimated production of three million tonnes per annum.
All through the year, markets in India are flush with the fruit. Primarily cultivated in states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Bihar, the ideal time to plant them is during the monsoon season.
In contrast to other cash crops that require high input costs, farmers going organic can earn high returns on the lemon, and here are three of them who are showing the way forward:
Of the 6 hectares of land he owns, Hamirsinh Parmar of Gautamgadh village in Gujarat’s Surendranagar district cultivates lemons on 1.6 hectares. The 67-year-old farmer first began planting lemon saplings nearly 25 years ago.
While many farmers in the Saurashtra region are reeling after a severe drought struck down their yield, Parmar is selling lemons at Rs 100 per kg, as against the standard price of Rs 80.
A former employee of the Gujarat State Cooperative Cotton Federation, Parmar today harvests 100 quintals of the fruit on an average every year. Besides income, his input costs have come down by half.
“I have been marketing my lemons and vegetables as produce harvested from an organic farm. Being richer in taste and aroma too, my consumers don’t mind paying 15-25 per cent more than the market rate. Normal lemon sells for Rs 80 per kg, while my product fetches Rs 100. Besides, I make roughly Rs 1,000 daily from the sale of brinjal, okra, spinach leaves and other vegetables from the same orchard,” he told The Indian Express.
Winner of Gujarat’s Sardar Patel Krishi Sanshodhan Puraskar award (2016-17), he even uses the lemons to expand into other, related fields. For example, the monsoon, when lemon production shoots up but not the demand for the fruit, he has started making organic pickles from his organic lemons.
V Antonisamy, a 75-year-old farmer from Puliangudi in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, has been farming on his 200 acres of land for over three decades. With poor returns from conventional farming and illness, he racked up massive debts, and the banks came calling.
Taking a cue from natural farming pioneer Subhash Palekar, Antonisamy went 100% organic in 1987.
Today, the lemon is his primary source of income and fetches him annual profits of up to Rs 2 crore a year. While average farmers acquire a yield of 1,000-2,000 fruits per tree, Antonisamy grows 5,000-6,000 fruits per plant, according to the Times of India.
“We grow everything we require on the land. No MNC has been able to extract a penny from me in the past 30 years. Back in 1982-83, I spent Rs 33 lakh on fertilizer and pesticides. My farm is 100% pesticide free,“ he told the publication.
In 2011, Sudeesh Shetty, a former software engineer working with Infosys, decided to shift to agriculture, and picked up lemon cultivation out of curiosity, in Udupi.
“[The] lemon plant contracts very few diseases and needs only unskilled labour. Family members under harvest and other work. The plants also have a stress period, like summer after which, they start flowering. If the yield is proper, we can make a profit of Rs 1-1.5 lakh, and the income is continuous,” he told the Times of India.
Of the 22 acres of land his family owns, Shetty grows lemons on two acres.
“Each plant yielded 50 lemons in the first year, but the quantity increased to 350-400 lemons by the third year. Lemon is one the best cash crops and it generates revenue every week, which makes managing money easy. The season lasts for three months, from May till July. The profit generated by each plant rises to Rs 3000 to Rs 5000, per week during season months, against Rs 500 per (plant) in the other months.” he told the publication.
Clearly, when life gives you lemons, grow them!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)