Cut rose boom a thorn for small Hosur farmers

Written by Jaishankar Jayaramiah | Hosur (Tamil Nadu) | Updated: Nov 29 2010, 07:34am hrs
Hosur, an hour drive from Bangalore on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border, is fast emerging as the floriculture hub of India on the back of raising cut rose exports from this region.

But small farmerslured to rose cultivation by the government through various sopsare now struggling. There has been no subsequent support from the government post-harvest to enable them export cut roses directly.

As a result, majority of the farmers who availed bank loans for their hi-tech cut rose projects could not pay loans and are now facing legal actions from banks.

Around 8 million stems of cut roses produced in Hosur in Krishnagiri district are exported to Europe, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and other South East Asian countries every year. The district accounts for around 30% of the total Rs 500 crore of foreign exchange fetched through cut flower exports from the country.

Talking to FE, V Venkatachalam, president of Krishnagiri Horticulture Federation (KHF), said small farmers were forced to sell their produce to middlemen and Bangalore-based exporters due to lack of international linkage. The exporters buy rose from farmers at Rs 2 to Rs 5 per stem but in-turn sell in the international market at up to Rs 10-15 per stem.

The flower, immediately after it is picked from the plant, should be placed in cold storage. But there is no cold storage facility in the district, resulting in farmers being compelled to sell the product to middlemen after they pick flowers. I have taken floriculture as main business after finishing my MSc Biochemistry, but now thinking of shutting it, Venkatachalam added.

Around 580 such small farmers in Krishnagiri have started cut flower cultivation in the past three years by availing bank loans. Of them, at least 100 farmers are graduates, post-graduates and even PhDs but all struggling without proper marketing linkage and lack of post-harvesting facilities.

These small farmers produce around 1.5 lakh stems of roses per day. National Horticulture Mission (NHM) is providing 50% subsidy to set up a unit of 1,000 square meters of poly green house infrastructure to produce cut roses. Farmers should either raise remaining 50% as bank loan or invest on own.

Each unit costs around Rs 6.5 lakh. Almost all farmers have raised bank loans for their stake, but only 20% of them were able to make repayments, said an official attached to a Nationalised Bank requesting anonymity. As a result, now the banks have slowed down offering loans to small floriculture projects.