Hops cultivation has become extinct in Lahaul and Spiti.
Reason: Farmers of the region have failed to fetch good price for the crop.
Earlier, it was a source of livelihood for the people of Lahaul valley, who were involved in the cultivation of hops since 1975 to sustain their economy.
According to locals, the main reason behind the extinction of hops cultivation from the valley is poor pricing of the crop. The cultivation was based on traditional farming, which failed to increase the production.
Hops are flowers (also called seed cones or strobiles) of the hops plant Humulus lupulus. They are used primarily as a flavouring, and stability agent in beer. In addition, it also imparts floral, fruity, or citrus flavour and aroma to it. Hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine. The hops plant is a vigorous, climbing and herbaceous perennial, usually trained to grow up strings in a field called a hop field or hop garden, when grown commercially. Many different varieties of hops are grown by farmers around the world for different flavours of beer.
Local farmers rue that for the past few years, they incurred huge losses in hops cultivation because the crop was being imported into the Indian market from abroad at cheaper rates. In foreign countries, farmers have adopted modern techniques of farming to enhance hops production. At the same time, they were using machines for picking hops flowers, which cut down the labour cost. They said in Lahaul-Spiti people were dependent on traditional farming and manual labour for picking of hops flowers from fields. It proved costly for farmers cultivating hops.
Sources said in 1994, 131 tonnes of hops was produced in the valley. Countries such as the US and China sell their hybrid hops at cheaper rates in India, while the HP Government has failed to market its 100 per cent organic hops. Earlier, hops were being cultivated in the valley on 200-hectare land, which had now vanished from the region.
The Lahaul Hops Marketing Society was formed by the local farmers to improve its trade and get better price for the crop, but it failed to achieve the target. Finally, farmers turned towards diversification of crops to earn their livelihood.
Amrit Lal, a native of Lahaul and former manager of Lahaul Hops Marketing Society, said poor pricing for the produce was the main cause of its extinction from the valley.
Earlier, there were around 2,500 farmers from the district who were involved in hops cultivation. The state government failed to provide better marketing facility to famers. As a result, they failed to fetch good price for the crop.
“The price of hops in the market is Rs 50 per kg, while the cost of production is quite high. The arrival of hybrid hops from abroad into the Indian market hit the famers of the state badly, which forced them to shun its cultivation. Farmers in foreign countries are equipped with modern techniques of farming to enhance production and cut down expenditure of labour cost,” he said.
He said finding no way to cope with the situation, now a majority of farmers have adopted diversification of crops to sustain their economy.
Ramesh Kumar, another farmer, said: “Lahaul is a cold place and we never used pesticides for the production of hops due to which the crop in Lahaul valley was rich in alpha acid. Despite this, there was no demand for our produce. So, we were forced to shift to vegetable production.”
Farmers of the district said the state government should make efforts to revive hops cultivation in the district with modern techniques, which can be an alternate source of income for them.
Dr Sonam Angroop, Deputy Director, Horticulture, said: “Now, farmers have taken to alternate crops to sustain their economy. With the advent of vegetable cultivation in the region, farmers are producing cauliflower, cabbage, peas, potato, apple and other cash crops. They were getting good price for these crops. Further, there was no such project in the pipeline to revive the hops cultivation in the valley.”
About the flower
- Hops are flowers also called seed cones or strobiles of the hops plant Humulus lupulus. These are used primarily as a flavouring, and stability agent in beer
- In addition, it also imparts floral, fruity, or citrus flavours and aromas to it
- Hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine
- The hops plant is grown in a field called a hop field or hop garden
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