Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology makes it possible to grow Hing (Asafoetida) in Himachal Pradesh to save Rs. 900 crore worth of foreign exchange every year
One of the prime spices used in Indian Kitchen, Hing (Asafoetida), which so far was only imported from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan, is now planted by the farmers in the Lahual Valley in Himachal Pradesh.
And it has been made possible by the combined efforts by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology (IHBT).
According to the records, India imports nearly 1,200 tonnes of this palatable product (which is also used for medicinal purposes) that costs around $100 million per year.
Hing is one of the top spice crops and is a high-value condiment in India. It has a strong, sharp odour, but a pinch of Hing can bring out the delicious flavour, especially in vegetarian dishes.
It is now estimated that locally growing Hing can help India to save more than 900 crore rupees.
If Hing was not produced in the country earlier, it was because there were no plantations. The IHBT, one of the laboratories of the CSIR, brought in the asafoetida seeds and developed its agro-technology. The institute introduced six accessions of seeds from Iran via ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBPGR), New Delhi in October 2018.
CSIR-IHBT raised the condiment’s plants at CeHAB, Ribling, Lahaul Spiti, under the surveillance of NBPGR. The plant needs dry and cold conditions to grow and takes around five years for production of oleo gum resin, which it stores in its roots.
Thus, cold desert areas of Himalayan region provide suitable climatic conditions for Heeng to grow.
According to Dr. Sanjay Kumar, Director, IHBT, a CSIR body, “It will cost farmers nearly Rs. 3 lakhs per hectares over next five years and give them a net return of minimum Rs. 10 lakhs from fifth year onwards. In collaboration with state government, we will provide support to farmers with finance and technical know-how. It will be a game-changer for farmers in colder regions of the nation.”
Hing crop needs cold and dry conditions for the growth. That is the reason why the CSIR-IHBT team decided to choose the cold desert areas of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Arunachal Pradesh are ideal regions for the cultivation of Hing.
The IHBT has marked 300 hectares for the cultivation of Hing. It hopes that the area will be further expanded to more areas once farmers successfully finish one cycle of five years and check the results.
Dr. Shekhar Mande, Director General of CSIR reveals, “We began research on growing Hing locally since 2016. Hing can only grow in very cold and certain geo-climatic regions such as Ladakh and Lahaul-Spiti”. Accordingly, Dr. Sanjay Kumar launched the programme by planting Hing saplings at Kwaring village in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh.
Seedlings of the condiment already is being planted in about “5 hectares of land” in Himachal Pradesh, with plans to “scale up” production by cultivating , as mentioned, at least 300 hectares of land in the next three years.
Himachal Pradesh government has so far assisted Rs 4 crore to the CSIR- IHBT initiative. Besides, IHBT has established a tissue culture lab that can quickly grow lakhs of saplings.