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Livelihoods of smallholder farmers engaged in floriculture in Tamil Nadu

A situation assessment & recommendations

1. Overview:The small-scale production of loose flowers such as jasmine, chrysanthemum, marigold, crossandra, nerium, tuberose and rose isthe main cash crop in the farming system of smallholder farmersin many parts of Tamil Nadu. There are about 32,400 hectares under these crops and production of 4,82,500 MT in 2017-18. Tamil Nadu is the major producer of loose flowers, contributingto about 25 per cent of the national production.

Of the total area, jasmine occupies nearly 39 per cent followed by rose at 22 per cent (see fig for other crops). The primary markets for jasmine, rose and marigold are other states and exports.For the remaining crops,the market is largely within the state and neighboring states in few cases.

On an average, the area under flower cultivation by farmers ranges from 200 sq.m to 4,000 sq.m(0.02 to 0.4 ha) with the area being decided based on the availability of family labour, choice of the crop, and access to irrigation. In a few 

places, wage labour is also engaged, especially women on part-time basis for plucking, either in the early morning or late evening, based on the market and price. Loose flowers are a source of continuous weekly income, making it a prime component in a small farm holder’s cropping system that offers financial resilience to the household.

March to June is the peak flowering season for all the crops. This is except tuberose, which comes to flowering in Aug- Sept and rosethat comes to flowering in two seasons. As soon as the peak flowering season is over, farmers do field management as well as pruning of existing plants to promote fresh growth of branches.

2. COVID-19 measures:The lockdown fromthe evening of March 24, 2020has meant closure of entire flower markets and no procurement from farmers. The entire supply chain is disrupted due to closure of transport as well as lack of demand from public following stoppage of religious functions and restriction on private ceremonies.Jasmine and marigold flowers are also processed for their chemical constituents, but the closure of the processing units has affected demand from that end also. Further, the availability and capacity of these processing units is not sufficient to procure and convert the large volume of production into value added products that can be stored for future trade.All these factors put together has brought both organized and unorganized supply chain for loose flowers to a standstill.

3. Impact:Besides immediate loss of income and employment, there are issues relating to field conditions, plant health and indebtedness:

3.1 Loss of Income and employment: Farmers, largely small holdershave incurred huge loss of incomedue to the disruption in the whole supply chain; this is the peak flowering stage and    also coincides with key festivals during which there is high demand and famers command a higher price.

Table 1 presents an estimation of the productivity (flower yield), price, and possible yield loss, under a 30-day lockdown period, which is also the peak flowering season and monetary loss incurred. 

Table 1: Estimated lossincurred by major loose flower crops during 30 days of Lockdown

 

Average yield kg /ha during one season /year

Per cent yield normally realized during peak season coinciding with 30-day lockdown period

Yield during 30-day lock-downperiod

kg /ha

Flower price

Rs. /kg

Monetary loss from 1 ha during 30-day lockdown

Jasmine

12000

35

4200

100

420000

Nerium

25000

35

8750

30

262500

Tube rose

14000

15

2100

30

63000

Marigold

15000

40

6000

30

180000

Rose

1000000

20

200000

40

80000

Crossandra

2500

30

750

200

150000

Chrysanthemum

20000

40

8000

30

240000

Estimated average income loss from 1 ha of loose flowers cultivated will amount to around INR 2 lakh.
 
A farmer with 0.02 hectare under jasmine for instance will incur a loss of Rs.8400 and a chrysanthemum farmer would have a loss of Rs.4800/- for the 30 days lock down period. The figures are based on a rapid assessment worked out in consultation with farmers and only gives a rough estimate; it is not inclusive of other catastrophic effects to the crop that may occur in due course of time. In addition, there is also the loss in employment in the village economy, as the peak flowering season activity provides considerable number of days of work to women in the area. 
 
With about 32,400 ha area under loose flowers cultivation in the state, the income loss to the state as a whole could be as much as INR 64,800 lakhs.Tamil Nadu contributes to 25 per cent of the loose flower production in the country. 
 
3.2)Poor field sanitation and plant health: Jasmine, nerium, crossandra, tuberose, and rose are semi-perennial crops; farmers maintain the crop for more than two years while other crops such as marigold and chrysanthemum are annual shorter duration crops. In the face of the current crisis, many farmers have left the field unattended, leading to poor field sanitation, this will encourage the buildup of pests and diseases like Jasmine bud worm, blight, Eriophyid mite in jasmine, wilt and root rot, nematode attack in crossandra, root rot and nematode in tube rose, rust and scales in rose, root rot in marigold and chrysanthemum. Also, the bud formation will be reduced due to hormonal disorder/deficiency. Normally farmers prune thejasmine crop in June. But, now to maintain the plant health, many farmers have started pruning.This condition will resultin income loss of farmers for the whole plucking season till June 2020 and farmers stand to continuously loseincome for the next 30 to 45 days. In addition, in case of crossandra, when the flowers are not plucked on time, it affects the seed setting;normally farmers depend on seeds for the next planting from the previous crop, but now they will be forced to depend on the market for seeds.All semi perennial open field flower crops follow continuous cycles, i.e. there is no prescribed production-off system as like that of bending practices followed under greenhouse rose production.
 

3.3.) Informal Credit: Farmers who received advance or credit from market agents with assurance of repayment after selling flowers are severely affected, they are facing conditions like not being allowed to change the flower crop without prior intimation to market agents and having to pay interest on the amount borrowed.

 

Affected Regions: Jasmine is cultivated throughout the state except in hill zones, while Nerium is cultivated only in the Madurai and Dindigul zones. Crossandra and marigold are largely cultivated in Chennai, Trichy, Madurai and Coimbatore regions and chrysanthemum in Hosur, Coimbatore and hilly regions.

 

 4. Recommendations:

Small farmers who cultivate loose flower crops are the worst affected; they have lost the income ofalmost one whole season, and it is the main cash crop in their farming systems.Besides the psychological stress from loss, this will have an impact on their investment on the next crop cultivation.As a special case therefore:

  1. It is essential to urgently undertake appropriate assessmentof loss incurred by farmers across different regions and crops immediately and work out compensation protocols and payment structure to rebuild the confidence of farmers
  2. Provide necessary agro-advisories to maintain good field conditions and plant health, so that productivity is maintained
  3. Ensure the availability of good quality seeds/seedlings/cuttings in the coming season based on local need.
  4. Support promotionof intercrop/ mixed crop like short duration vegetable crop inside flower crops like jasmine
  5. Establish essential oil extraction units/value addition units at decentralized level in loose flower hubs where Jasmine, tube rose and marigold are predominant. 

Prof M S Swaminathan: “At this present time of the corona crisis, small farmers In Tamil Nadu and India cultivating perishable commodities are suffering the most from market availability and variability. In the case of floriculture, we need to ensure that small farmers have access to good quality seeds and technologies for the coming kharif season, provide special attention to the participation of women, technological and economic and provide suitable equipment like oil extraction machinery for jasmine for value addition.”

Credits:

Design and Web: K Dileep, R Srinivasan Coordination & Editing: R Rengalakshmi, B Jayashree, R V Bhavani, Content: R Rengalakshmi, R Rajkumar, B Selvamukilan, P Nandeesha, Contributors: D S Girija, R Seenivasan, Acknowledgement: Technical inputs: Prof SRameshkumar, Department of Horticulture Annamalai University, Annamalainagar

Print version : COVID Policy Brief – Floriculture