Jammu, November 19
With the thorny bush of sea buckthorn, used in Ladakh for medicinal and other purposes, getting Geographical Indication (GI) tag recently, the administration has started making efforts to increase the production of the much sought-after berries. As per official records, at least 600 tonnes of sea buckthorn berries are harvested in Ladakh annually. This is the fourth product from Ladakh to get the tag. Sea buckthorn is mostly used in making juice, squash, soaps and also in traditional medicines due to high Vitamin-C content in it.
Farmers face major difficulty in harvesting the berries due to the thorn in the bushes on which they grow. A cloth is spread at the bottom of the bush and it is beaten with sticks so that berries fall on the cloth. However, most of the bushes can’t be reached for berries as they grow mostly in bunches and are not accessible due to high concentration of thorns. The berries grow in the wild in far-off areas, especially along the Indus river belt. The government has in the recent times taken initiatives by providing financial help to the farmers to grow berries on barren and uncultivable land in the UT.
Kunzang Wangmo, Horticulture Development Officer, Leh, who has keenly worked with farmers for increasing the harvest of the sea buckthorn, said it was included as a horticulture crop under the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) of the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare in Ladakh in 2018. “Our main aim is to use the barren land in the region where nothing grows to cultivate the berries. This will bring the land under cultivation and also become a major source of income for the farmers. The GI tag will bring much needed attention on the crop from outside world,” said Wangmo.
The berries are harvested in September-October every year, Wangmo informed.
Interestingly, sea buckthorn is grown completely organically without the use of any pesticide or other chemicals in Ladakh. Wangmo said the sea buckthorn of Ladakh is in demand by private firms outside the UT. While the primary processing of the berries is done in Ladakh, the pulp is sent to these firms for value addition.
As per a study by the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) due to scarcity of resources, sea buckthorn has been used traditionally for a variety of purposes. “Every part of the plant, including fruit, leaf, twig, root and thorn, has been traditionally used as medicine, nutritional supplement, fuel and fence and therefore, sea buckthorn is popularly known as Wonder Plant, Ladakh Gold, Golden Bush or Gold Mine of cold deserts,” it states.
Traditionally, the dense and thorny shrub was planted around agricultural field and plantation sites to protect crops from stray animals and pedestrian movement.
Ladakh remains the major site for sea buckthorn with over 70% of the total area (13,000 hectares) on which it is present in the country.
Specialised machinery needed
- According to horticulture officials, if some specialised machinery is brought in, the production of berries from wild sea buckthorn can increase tremendously in the region.
- Despite having a vast forest area, the main berry harvest is less than 6 per cent, which is 600 tonnes of the available produce.
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