Farmers embrace lavender cultivation in Kashmir for higher benefits, lower risks

Women working in the vibrant lavender fields in Bonoora area of Pulwama in South Kashmir. -Excelsior/Younis Khaliq
Women working in the vibrant lavender fields in Bonoora area of Pulwama in South Kashmir. -Excelsior/Younis Khaliq

Suhail Bhat

Srinagar, July 7: Lavender cultivation has emerged as a profitable and sustainable alternative for the farmers in Kashmir, enabling them to improve their economic prospects and enhance their livelihoods with fewer agricultural inputs.
The ‘Aroma Mission’ or ‘Purple Revolution,’ initiated by the Central Government in 2016 through the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) Aroma Mission, has played a transformative role in the lives of farmers in Jammu and Kashmir. The mission aims to support the domestic aromatic crop-based agro-economy by shifting from imported aromatic oils to locally grown varieties.
Officials said lavender cultivation has gained significant traction across all twenty districts of Jammu and Kashmir, and its future in the region looks promising, fuelled by the increasing demand for lavender and its derived products both domestically and internationally.
While highlighting the benefits of cultivating lavender, Madinha Talat, a successful lavender farmer, said that the export market for lavender surpasses that of traditional crops, making it a more profitable and long-lasting option.
“Over the past few years, I have dedicated my farms to cultivating lavender. The benefits are immense, as we can simply dry the lavender and use it as tea, which holds great value internationally. In addition, we extract lavender oil, which is highly sought-after for its use in aromatherapy, catering to the growing demand for organic living,” she said.
Dr Shahid Rasool, Senior Scientist and Incharge at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR IIIM), oversees operations at Banoora Pulwama, one of the largest lavender field stations sprawling over an impressive 1600 kanals of land.
He highlights the significance of lavender as a signature crop globally due to its extensive applications in industries such as toiletry, cosmetics, fragrances, and aromatherapy. “The environmental characteristics of the valley are suitable for this crop. The antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties of lavender make it an ideal choice. By avoiding the use of agrochemicals, lavender promotes ecological sustainability, which is crucial in our hilly region,” he said.
Dr. Rasool further explains that farmers who have started cultivating lavender have witnessed its immense potential for increasing profitability in their fields. The raw materials generated, especially lavender essential oil, have high remunerative value, selling for 10,000 to 15,000 rupees per kilogram. “The value-added products derived from processing lavender also offer significant benefits to farmers and the industry,” he said.
The agro-climatic conditions of Kashmir provide the perfect environment for lavender cultivation, as it thrives in mild summers, bright sunshine, and even marginal soils. “As land holdings and natural resources are shrinking, lavender cultivation requires fewer inputs, less irrigation, and can thrive in stress conditions, making it a promising future crop,” he said.
In addition to the economic benefits, lavender cultivation has also created livelihood opportunities for local women. At the Banoora Pulwama field station, around 30 girls are working on the farms, supporting their families, and contributing to the growth of their community.
“For the past three years, I have been harvesting approximately lavender daily, earning around 340 rupees. With nearly 30 girls working here, we are not only supporting our families but also contributing to the growth of our community,” she said.