Monday October 02, 2023

Coriander grows off-flavour for Sindh farmers on seed, water worries

March 03, 2022

HYDERABAD: Reluctance to grow coriander has been spreading among farmers in Sindh despite high demand for coriander seed powder and oil across the country.

For some farmers, following the difficult harvesting and threshing process is the issue, while for others, the challenge is availability of quality seeds and required water to save this sensitive crop.

These hurdles force most farmers to just produce green coriander leaves. They do not wait for the plant to mature for seeds, which have a higher domestic as well as international demand, reports have shown.

Riverine farmers produce these conventional food crops by adopting organic methods. But this year a majority of them faced an uncertain water situation.

Previously they were getting 15-20 maunds/acre average yield, but this year production has declined to 8-12 maunds/acre. In the beginning, price of coriander seed was Rs9,000-9,500/maund, which has now declined to Rs7,000-7,500/maund.

Retailers in towns and villages sell it at Rs300/kg (Rs12,000/maund).

Aligul Khoso, a farmer in the riverine area of Jamshoro district, whose family has been growing this spice crop for generations, said this year only a small number of farmers risked cultivating coriander, covering 40 percent land compared to previous years. “This happened because the river did not bring water in the entire season. For example, those farmers who used to cultivate 10 acres of family land for coriander, spared hardly four acres this year.”

Another problem are the hybrid seeds in the market. Coriander sowed in catchment areas was either not germinating or the plants were vulnerable to soil-bourne diseases, he added.

Farmer families have conventional methods of grinding spices, including coriander and red chilli for domestic use as well as for selling. These spices remain useful throughout the year and get consumed by almost all the people with cooked food.

Updated data is not available for coriander cultivation in Sindh; however, around 15-16 years ago it was a common crop grown throughout the province for domestic consumption as well as for export.

Riverine farmers depend on the river for cultivating winter crops mainly coriander, masoor, chickpeas, mung bean and wheat. Sowing begins after the river water recedes.

These organic crops mostly grow and sustain on moisture. They do not need more water and fertiliser.

Riverine farmers remain sceptical of hybrid seed varieties, because of uncertain germination, susceptibility to diseases, and water requirements.

They grow crops on moisture or arrange one or two waters through lift machines. Compared to that hybrid seeds require more water and chemical input, which creates problems for them.

Farmers in the catchment areas still recall the old practice of extracting coriander oil through seeds, which was popular in the market, because of medicinal properties. Coriander oil is still available in major markets under different brand names, as well as at extracting machines. But due to a lack of government incentives the crop has been discarded ruthlessly.

Farmers in Mirpurkhas, parts of Umerkot and Tharparkar districts recalled that they last cultivated this spice crop around 15 years ago when it was common in the entire province. They stopped because of uncertain water flow and availability of old seeds.

Mostly farmers have lost their own traditional seeds of coriander, which they used to keep for the next year. Thus, they rely solely on hybrid seeds, which have created problems for them.

Only vegetable farmers in a wide area produce green leaves of coriander for the market. Sometimes, the prices of coriander leaves go up surprisingly and consumers face hardships to buy it.

Coastal farmers cultivate this crop with other vegetables. They rely solely on hybrid seeds, which either do not germinate properly or plants remain vulnerable to soil-bourne diseases and various other problems.