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Sikkim: The Floral Connection of South

Presently the whole country is facing nation- wide lockdown to combat COVID-19 resulting in the loss of income for these floriculturist
as they mostly rely on export of flowers to various domestic and international markets for which smooth transportation is a must. For most people flower symbolises hope, love, compassion, courage and many more but for floriculturist flowers are a source of livelihood.

Similarly flower farmers of South District grows a variety of blooms depending on its altitude. Keeping this in mind, flowers such as Gerbera and Anthurium requires relatively warm temperature and are cultivated at Kamrang, Melli Dara- Paiyong, Turuk, Kateng- Bokrong, Sumbuk and in areas which falls under the warmer clusters. As for Alstroemeria, Cymbidium and Carnation it requires relatively cool weather hence they are raised at middle and high altitude areas like Tinzir, Sadam Gupti, Simkharka, Nagi- Karek, Kabrey and Jaubari. Lilium flower can be grown in both lower and higher altitude but the main season of production varies which is highly determined by the kind of altitude that these flowers are raised.

Amongst many gardeners of the district is one H. B. Pradhan owner of Flora Nursery from Sadam. He has been a floriculturist since the early 90’s. He says that in a normal year, his flowers fetches him a couple of lakhs and it reaches places like Assam, West Bengal, Bhutan and many other locations but due to this year’s lockdown flower business has gone towards a downward spiral and that he has not even earned half of what he usually earns.

Likewise thirty-eight year old Naren Rai from Tinzir Namchi has been a nurseryman for a long time and in the year 2019 he ventured into orchid farming after taking loan. He tied up with Mainam Garden and various other floral business to supply his orchid produce but this year trade has been gloomy due to COVID-19.

Now, looking at the challenging scenario of flower growers and their blossoms South Horticulture Department has been working on a foolproof strategy as there are more than 40 flower farmers whose produce has been severely impacted by COVID-19. Firstly a team of floriculture officials inspect the flower farm afterwhich they assessed the loss particularly of cut flowers namely Gerbera, Carnation, Anthurium, Alstroemeria and Cymbidium. The department has also devised an effective marketing channel with M/S Mevedir, which runs a cold storage at Melli on contract agreement. M/S Mevedir has been procuring cut flowers from the farmers and selling it in the markets so that the flower growers do not face huge losses. These affected farmers will also be provided with financial assistance as apprised by the departmental officials. Apart from this, the officials has also utilised local shops to store the cut flower in order to sell it. These kind of sales are being practised at Melli Dara -Paiyong and Namchi area. Moreover one can also buy flowers from Sikkim State Co-operative Supply and Marketing Federation Ltd. (SIMFED) outlet in Namchi and Horticulture Office in District Administrative Centre, South.

The Horticulture Department has also collaborated with Mission For Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH)- Area Expansion Programme and North East Council- Turnkey which is a centrally sponsored scheme. MIDH provides a holistic and co-ordinated avenue for farmers in developing their produce. Under MIDH the department focus on cut flowers of Gerbera, Carnation, Alstroemeria, Lilium, Anthurium and Cymbidium.

Both H. B and Naren says that the spring and summer flowers has wilted and spoiled as there has been a decrease in demand from various areas as functions and events namely that of marriages, engagement and other social gatherings where flowers are used in a bountiful manner has ceased for the time being. They said that during this testing times, Facebook and other social media platform has been a huge boon for them as they shared photographs of the seasonal flowers wherein many people were updated and informed about it. While many of them have requested to purchase the flowers but due to transportation problem they couldn’t sent their supplies. Meanwhile, officials from South Horticulture Department has extensively help them in mitigating the transport and in vending of the cut flowers.

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However, both H.B and Naren are of the opinion that the department should give the flowers growers a training on the use of various social media platforms for virtual marketing of the flowers so that they can directly get in touch with the customers, exporters and many more. They are already in contact with a number of persons who are into floriculture business nevertheless, they said that this crises can only be sought through the collective and co-operative measures between the department officials, flower growers, as well as small and big scale entreprenuers. At present H.B. and Naren are preparing in cultivating of blooms for the upcoming season.

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