Losses in industry spurred this farmer to greener pastures

Losses in industry spurred this farmer to greener pastures

Ambitious K G Murugavel started his textile business in Tirupur district in Tamil Nadu a few years ago and suffered heavy losses due to severe power crisis in the state. Then, he thought of trying his luck as a farmer. He decided to grow organic Barhee dates, which are currently imported. He started charting his own new course and now has become a model for many in the area to turn farming into a remunerative field. 

The farmer claims the dates grown on his farm near Vanjipalayam would help not only the economy of the district but also of the country.

For most people, Tirupur is famous for its textile trade. In recent times, the textile business has been going through rough phase because of severe power shortage in the state.

Barhee dates, which have nutritional and medicinal value, are now imported from middle east. The Barhee date palm is characterised by its high yield. Fresh fruits are yellow in colour while semi-dried/dried dates are brown in colour.

A small quantity is cultivated in Gujarat and Rajasthan. “I began cultivation in February 2010 on about two acres of land. I bought about 200 sap­lings from Gujarat at Rs 3,500 a sapling after selling my residential plot. The results are there in just about 30 months,” said Murugavel. “It’s very much in demand in the US, the UK and the Middle East. It needs plenty of dire­ct sunlight and less rain and Tirupur and its surrounding areas are ideal place for growing dates. We began our experiment and now it has given yield,” he said, adding that the first consignment was exported early this year.
Besides encouraging him, District Collector M Mathivanan asked him to create awareness among others. At present, each tree is likely to yield about 200 kg of fresh dates a year and one could earn about 10 lakh from one acre.

Murugavel, who claims he was appreciated for his hard work of four years by former President APJ Abdul Kalam, says his success is a good model for agriculturists in the region to follow.
The date palm tree has heavy trunk of medium height and its leaf bases are broad. The fruit stalks are wide, long and heavy. 

“Cultivation of dates in this area has shown good results. This can be a good example as to how farmers with small land holding can earn good money,” Mathivanan said. 

Murugavel hails from an agricultural family in Tirupur district. In keeping with his family tradition, he took up agriculture initially. But later  moved to the garment industry and incurred losses. He returned to agriculture. Only this time, he chose Barhee dates over his family’s traditional turmeric crop. 

At present, dates are immensely popular and a staple food in the middle east since it is native to the Persian gulf, says Murugavel.

Barhee saplings are cultivated through tissue culture and are available primarily in the Gulf. The saplings are well-suited for 30-40 degree temperatures. Each sapling is planted in a pit first filled with organic manure, ash and sand. About 50 saplings are planted in an acre. Drip irrigation is used to water the plants once in three days. Various organic manures are used and the plants start bearing fruits in just 28 months.

Murugavel, an undergraduate, did exte­nsive research on the internet to learn the techniques of Barhee cultivation. Tamil Nadu Fruits’ Dealers Association Secretary P Gnanasekaran said that at present the dates are sold at 1,200 per kg. “Curre­ntly, almost all of them are imported from the US, Australia and Gulf countries,” he said. 

He said even though there is a good market for this fresh product, irregular supply hits the business. According to him, the Barhee date is the sweetest and softest of all dates. The ripened date is brownish and soft and tastes sweet and juicy. Gnanasekaran claims that Barhee dates have a brief season and they yield high price when exported.

A senior official from the horticulture department suggested that since the saplings are costly the state government can purchase them in bulk and sell them at subsidised rates to farmers. He said each sapling could cost about Rs 3,000.

“Date cultivation requires a lot of patience as trees mature only after five years. But it's worth the wait as, unlike the local variety, the taste of Barhee is uniformly sweet,” he added. From agriculture to the garments industry and then back to agriculture, Murugavel life has come a full circle. He is one of the few farmers, who has successfully cultivated organic Barhee dates in India. 

Now, he gives free training to other farmers keen on cultivating dates in their agricultural fields. 

Noted nutritionist K Bhuvaneshwari said the fibre and carbohydrates are present in dates, which helps in easy digestion. It is advisable for pregnant women to consume dates, she added. 

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