Will this Unique Garlic Festival survive Climate Change?

Will  this Unique Garlic Festival survive Climate Change?

A village in Manipur’s Ukhrul District has been celebrating its garlic crop in a festival called ‘Shuri Kaso Phanit’. 

This week, the 10th edition of the garlic festival, held at Talui village ground and organized by the Talui Kharngarum SHG(Self Help Group), was less satisfying tan previous years, according to the locals.

Observers and locals do point out that unseasonable weather and rain patterns, may be playing spoilsport.

Talui village in Ukhrul

The festival showcases and promotes the unique taste of the medium size garlic produced in Talui, a hill village located about 110 km north east of Imphal.

While 8,000 kilograms of Talui village’s unique Shuri Kaso (garlic ) was sold from 14 stalls represented by different SHGs in the one-day Garlic festival cum sale, the overall garlic yield  has dropped by almost 20 percent.

The Talui village has two varieties of garlic – red and white, which grows from August to October and harvested in March.

Garlic bulbs arranged in varied shapes and loose bulbs packed in a quantity of 1 kg each were sold at Rs 200 per unit. Soon after opening the stalls, the venue attracted a large number of buyers from among the visitors from Ukhrul town and other villages, apart from the local villagers.

 “This presents a concerning problem for the local garlic growers, who depend heavily on their garlic product for economic sustenance,” said Ms RK Ningchim, chairperson of Kharngarum SHG Federation of Talui village. She said that last year their volume of garlic production  exceeded 10,000 kg, but this year, it has come down to just 8,000 kg.

She also said this year’s overall production of garlic in the village including those produced by all the 1000 households is around 25,000 kg compared to around 30,000 kg last year.

The cause of the drop in garlic yield has been difficult to determine, but some potential causes may be linked to an unusual weather conditions, she observed.

In the village, about a thousand households grow garlic  for their own consumption, and  a total of 220 women farmers from 11 SHGs under the federation are engaged in commercial farming of the spice.

Talui village acting headman Henry Lungleng said that garlic farmers under the federation have been striving to promote the unique ‘Shuri Kaso’ of Talui, despite their limited resources.

For representation only

“This is a clear testament to the fact that local villagers are earning their livelihood through honest means rather than resorting to illegal farming for easy money,” he said.

He urged the locals to cooperate with the federation in its efforts to promote healthy farming for the betterment of the village.

In 2010, only 300 kg of garlic of the village could be sold. The Talui Kharngarum SHG Federation initiated the garlic festival to promote the quality of garlic produced. On thursday [March 30,] around 8000 kilograms of Talui Garlic was sold off at the rate of Rs 200 per kilogram within one hour during the festival: a Rs 16 lakh turnover!

“An unhealthy rain water and prolonged dry spell could have caused pest infestation which resulted in the garlic crop being stunted and drop in production,” Ms Ningchim told a Manipur newspaper. The village is already battling the effects of a long-standing drought, and the loss in yield has exacerbated the situation.

According to Dr. Solei Luiram, Programme Coordinator program of Krishi Vigyan Kendra Ukhrul, poor soil quality due to years of overuse, increased pests, and lack of water necessary for proper growth are  the possible reasons behind the drop in the crop yield. He suggested that to overcome the crop yield issue, local growers should focus on  using organic manures such as cattle dung, urine and forest soils, which can help strengthen the soil and boost garlic yields.

District horticulture & soil conservation officer  Kh Manorama, in her address as Chief Guest, pointed out that while the Talui garlic is popular and everyone knows that it is unique in its flavour, there is a need to test the crop to establish as to what properties make it unique and explore the possibilities of geo tagging.

She noted that garlic has an immense prospect of food processing and assured that she would consider providing food processing training to the local garlic growers in the near future.

Meanwhile, the Kharngarum SHG Federation has reported that a total turnover of over Rs 16 lakh as recorded from the stalls.