Tuesday, June 6, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Getting rich with chillies
By Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

HODLA KALAN (Mansa), June 5 — Three cheers for Chillies! These may be a hot stuff for many but have made a local farmer Manmohan Singh Sandhu jingle his way to the bank.

By adopting an innovative approach, Mr Sandhu produced chillies worth Rs 5 lakh from an acre. “I don’t know whether it is a record output per unit, but I am sure mine is one of the best,” he says.

Reticent Mr Sandhu gradually opened up to talk about his experiences and achievements on the farming front. Having worked as a sanitary inspector in Chandigarh and Shimla he quit his job in 1969 and took to the plough. From routine crops like wheat, cotton and rice, he switched on to grapes and vegetables. Today he is known as the Chilli King not only in the area but also in neighbouring states.

First he transplanted chillies, then turned to hybrid chilli seed production. Now he runs a chilli nursery. From a one-acre nursery, he sold chilli saplings worth Rs 5 lakh during the last season. He is all set to repeat the same performance this year. His net saving from chilli nursery is around Rs 3.5 lakh.

It is significant to mention here that farmers following the wheat-paddy rotation earn only Rs 15,000 to 20,000 per acre. And more than 95 per cent farmers follow the rotation.

Not only from Punjab, but farmers from neighbouring Haryana and even from the Rawla area of Gujarat visit his farm to buy plants. Determined to grow varieties evolved by Punjab Agricultural University, Mr Sandhu is now preparing seed of CH-1, a hybrid chilli variety, for developing a nursery for the next chilli season. He would provide saplings for transplantation in 200 acres in various parts of the country.

A disciplinarian, as far as sale of plants is concerned, Mr Sandhu gives plants to only those farmers who get these booked in advance. One can’t even get a single plant from him without booking. “I am very firm on this”, he adds with a smile. Those buying chilli saplings from him are able to earn Rs 60,000 to 80,000 per acre.

He was declared best chilli grower of 1995-96 and also got the first prize at the Regional Kisan Mela organised by the PAU at Bathinda last year. Mr Sandhu also has to his credit 25 awards for producing crops ranging from paddy to potatoes, from okra to grapes and cauliflower to garlic besides strawberry and bee keeping.

His son Karamjit, Vicky to his friends, who did his class X from Guru Nanak Public School, Chandigarh, helps his father on the farm. The farm has all the modern facilities ranging from green houses to sprinklers and serves as model demonstration farm.”

Mr Sandhu was sarpanch of his village for about nine years. With his efforts and encouragement to others he virtually transformed the village. He has become a consultant not only to the farming community of the area but also to agriculture experts.

“In 1969 when I decided to return to the soil I relearnt the alphabets of agriculture which had advanced because of technological and scientific innovations. In agriculture I realised all farm operations had to be done as per the recommended agronomic practices of the PAU”, he told TNS.

“Other farmers can also make money. But first they should develop the habit of aspiring and then work to achieve the same”. “Our farmers,” he says, “have the habit of going in for routine crops like the wheat-paddy rotation. They are not prepared to experiment. It is right time that they diversify, pick up different crops. If one grows chillies, other should go for garlic. Tendency to copy what other farmers are doing in the villages is proving unremunerative. Moreover agro-climatic conditions also vary.”

Mr Sandhu insists that farmers must get their soil and water tested before going in for any cultivation. And he disclosed that he has had the soil and water of all farmers of his village tested twice. Like wise he got all the tractors and farm implements of his village serviced and repaired from the PAU’s farm machinery wing. His advise to all farmers is to maintain proper accounts of the farm operations and keep in touch with their crops on the day-to-day basis.

For his success, he gives full credit to PAU scientists especially Mr Jarnail Singh Hundal, Professor of Vegetables and also to the State Department of Horticulture.

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