Friday, March 24, 2023
HomeScienceIndia starts cultivating hing, a staple ingredient that costs $130 mn each...

India starts cultivating hing, a staple ingredient that costs $130 mn each year to import

Hing is currently imported from Afghanistan and Iran but scientists from CSIR-IHBT, Palampur, have begun growing it in Himachal’s Lahaul and Spiti district.

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New Delhi: Hing or asafoetida is a key part of the cuisine in many parts of India, but so far, it has had to be imported from countries like Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan, because it was never grown locally.

But now, scientists from the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have planted hing saplings in Himachal Pradesh, in the hope that cultivation of the spice will become a common practice in India.

Shekhar Mande, director-general of the CSIR, told ThePrint that, historically, asafoetida has been cultivated in cold desert regions of Afghanistan and Iran.

Even though India consumes 40 per cent of the world’s hing, no attempt had been made to start its cultivation locally. However, since 2016, Sanjay Kumar, director of CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT) in Palampur, has been working on growing asafoetida locally.

Also read: Today’s PPE kits could be tomorrow’s roads, fuel — CSIR’s plan to tackle Covid plastic surge

A staple ingredient

Hing is an indispensable ingredient in cultures that discourage the use of garlic and onions in their foods. It has a strong, pungent odour, but a pinch of the spice can bring out the savoury flavour, especially in vegetarian dishes.

An NPR article points out that hing also has many traditional medicinal uses in India and beyond — in India, it is believed to help with everything from kidney stones to bronchitis; in Afghanistan, it’s thought to cure whooping cough and ulcers; while in Egypt, it’s considered a diuretic.

And because it’s a sought-after commodity in India, 100 grams of hing can cost anywhere between Rs 300 to Rs 1,000 depending on the quality and origin of the product.

“India imports nearly 1,200 tonnes of ferula asafoetida, amounting to nearly US $130 million every year,” Kumar told ThePrint. “That is a huge amount to pay for just one spice.”

Moreover, there have been many times when war and strife has prevented Iran and Afghanistan from exporting hing.

“Hing from Kabul has become part of the tradition, no one thought about cultivating it in India. Several people in India claim that we do have ferula species in India — but those are not the real varieties. In the last 30 years, no one has imported hing seeds into this country,” Kumar said.

Teaching farmers in Lahaul-Spiti

Kumar pointed out that Himachal’s Lahaul and Spiti district is also a cold desert with climate similar to Afghanistan, making it ideal for hing cultivation. The CSIR team has started the project on about 500 hectares of land, but it will take four to five years before the homegrown hing achieves the same quality as what is imported from Iran or Afghanistan.

If the pilot is successful, the scientists want to expand the cultivation to Ladakh, parts of Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh.

Kumar and his fellow scientists are working closely with government officials of Himachal Pradesh to train the local farmers about the correct way to cultivate the spice.

“There is no scientific literature available on how to grow asafoetida. So, we developed the agrotechnology of this plant — we know precisely how this plant is germinated, and how it should be transplanted. We conducted training programmes for the farmers and state officials,” Sanjay Kumar said.

He explained that the plant can only be seen above the surface for one or two months, after which it gets buried under snowfall, and goes into a state of hibernation.

“At this point, from past experience with other types of cultivation, we know that farmers are likely to become impatient. They might start digging to check, but once the plant gets disturbed, the quality of the hing will not be good. We have to make sure farmers understand this,” he said.

Apart from this, farmers are also being trained on how to irrigate the plant, which mostly survives on the moisture from melting snow. Farmers are also being discouraged from using chemical fertilisers, and being asked to only work with animal dung.

Using funds provided by the state government to the tune of Rs 4 crore, IHBT has set up a tissue culture lab that can quickly grow lakhs of saplings. This way, eventually, India will not even need to import asafoetida seeds from other countries, Kumar said.

Also read: Schizophrenia to oceans: The mysteries winners of big-ticket CSIR prize are trying to solve


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  1. A great step in atma nirbhar Bbarath. Our demands are to be met as locally as possible. I wish every Indian will encourage such acts and ideas to bring self sufficiency at every level.

  2. Use hing everyday.
    Never realised that India had to spend such a huge amount in importing it. Commendable attempt by the scientists. All the best for India’s road to self reliance in this product.

  3. It’s good to do such research and we can save the money rather than importing. Great initiative towards self dependent or atmanirbhar.

  4. Good initiative by the scientists from CSIR. ICAR scientists too should join this venture. Mutants should be generated for wider acclimatization of this crop. Let’s hope for the best.
    Regarding kiwi and dragon fruit, success has been attained in different parts of the country, however we have to work harder on its acceptability among the masses as well as better storability and price quotient.

    • That’s very much right we should not waste money time on religious events and activities so as to go fast forward to developments of all kinds

  5. Though As. Agri scientist , I feel it is not too late than never. When we consume 40 percent what the hell are we doing. It is also a cash crop. We can earn millions
    Moreover medicinal values are immense. Hope Govt. And farmers go by the expert agriscientists and politicians also pay heed to scientists wisdom.
    Farmers be encouraged by the policies of Govt. , Both state and centre.
    Hope our future lies in the farming community.
    Principal Scientist
    ICAR, New Delhi

  6. A fool can only comment linking growing Hing locally on the lines of religion. It’s a malicious thought. Afghanistan grows ganja in a collosal scale and farmers make money from it. There are many ways to survive if enough efforts are put in.

  7. Goof effort by Indian Scientists! We need to be self dependent, because almost every household in India uses hing in day today cooking. Forget secularism & take care of ourself.

  8. Our Indian scientists are always great, we have salute to them same respect like army. Let’s make this environment good by developing great batteries which can be useful in EV’s to save the Nature.

  9. Its ok to do such research and innovation to promote local agri community. We need to have some local supply instead of depending 100% on imports for such daily neeeded items. But pitting against Afghan will rob of their earnings if India don’t import. They will be diverted again to opium cultivation. Both Afghan and Uran are friendly countries.

  10. CSIR should see how to promote sandel wood cultivation in India as its high value yielding plant. Takes 60 yrs to mature. So if one child is gifted with a sapling, one can reap a retirement corpus after 60 yrs. Something like a wealth creating plant. However it grows in climate like Mysore only. Public can be encouraged to mass grow ‘ghar ghar mein chandan aur anth msin sab Chandhi’ Australia has a programme to mass plant Sandalwood, though its of lesser quality than the species grown in karnataka and western Tamilnadu forests.

  11. I am Tamil. I started thinking WTF is hing. Then I found its called perugkayam. Then I thought what it’s not grow in India. My mom use it daily.

  12. Fantastic initiative! Kudos to the thoutful decision. Many more initiatives like this would make us आत्मनिर्भर as a country. Heartiest congratulations to CSIR & IHBT.

  13. India is a geographical marvel. It has every kind of climate and land that can be found on earth, ranging from mountains to plains, wetlands and deserts. Only US and China could probably boast of similar resources. We are truly blessed by Bhumata. A thousand years ago India produced so much wealth by agriculture and industry that even Imperial Rome had trouble finding enough gold to buy it from us. Sadly, the next thousand years were spent under the heel of barbaric marauders. It is so heartwarming to see our country slowly regaining its lost glory. Jai Hind

  14. I never knew that this spice is completely imported. In our household, it’s used every day. Wonderful work by CSIR.

  15. Great idea , in all fields we should become self sufficient and net exporters than importers, especially in defence and food matters

  16. Rather than appreciating our fellow scientists who worked on this we are doing the crime of discussing or introducing politics in this.

    From missles to hospitals to seeds we need to learn to appreciate the last person doing the job and not the party under which this was done.

    Flag hoisting to innagurations should be done by intellectuals only or by specialist in their fields.

    In this case I am sure the scientist did a great job. But the journalists didn’t bother to even mention the name or put the picture of them because they don’t matter. But they do. Each one matters.

  17. Hopefully science based research technology when developed indigenously will produce positive results. Whereas Indian scientists with sound educational base hopefully shall be succeeded.

  18. India should grow what it needs, Self reliant is how we should exist in the world.

    Simple stuff, should not have and religious or political overtones.

    Interesting, never realised India did not grow hing with the use of it being in most Indian savouries and curries.

  19. This comment by Sh Reddy is unwarranted and unnecessary. Our country had green revolution and Sh. Swaminathan and other scientists has given self reliance in Food. We should appreciate good things irrespective of our affiliations.

  20. Mr Reddy !!! How stupid n illerate can u be !!! Bringing Hindu/ Muslim into something as simple as agriculture !!!!

    Stop this stupidity n praise d scientist who have done a very good Job

    • @ Mr Reddy, pl.learn from this blog. please remove your saffron glass you will see the plain simple scientific efforts of our people. Bloody, politics and only politics in everything.
      Reddys’s are being converted and taught to blame bJP and native indian faith and culture with political overtures. I had a collegue of the same surname doing the same.

  21. A right step in the right direction .A shining example for Aatmanirbhar bharat If the.pilot project is successful domestic demand can be met and even export can be feasible o er a period of time after getting mastery over the hing cultivation

  22. Excellent work for progress of India and Indian farmers. The strong research aspects are necessary in all Northern States on priority and other States. The concrete work is also needed on Burma wood cultivation also. Best Wishes..

  23. Sir. Excellent and genuine work for progress of
    India . The farmers will be more benefitted. It is also necessary to increase tick wood or Burma tick for farmers benefit in Northern States on priority alongwith other States. Best wishes.

  24. Great effort. For many, they know hing as a spice but nothing more than that. Great if it is cultivated here.

  25. Sir, spare Afghanistan, rather than grants, aids, it’s better to purchase something they produce. If every country becomes self-reliant who would purchase what we produce/manufacture?

    • @VRP
      Yeah exactly why go after imports from Afghanistan. The real thing would be to match imports from China. Go after big guys leave the small ones.

    • What a stipud thing to say. If everyone wants the first prize, who will want the other places? So let’s not contest the Olympics and save all the money?
      Every country should strive to reduce imports and increase exports. At the end what gets imported or exported is dependent on the game at that point. You cannot NOT try to be in the game.

  26. TS Darbari – India is principally an agricultural country. … Steady investments in technology development, irrigation infrastructure, emphasis on modern agricultural practices and provision of agricultural credit and subsidies are the major factors contributed to agriculture growth. Agriculture has a growing scope in India as India has been an agro-based economy. Agriculture is the prime source of generating food for living beings. The growing population has increased the demand for food and the increasing population is going on occupying more and more land and the land for cultivation of crops is going on decreasing.
    #TS_Darbari #Ts_Darbari_Blog #TS_Darbari_News #Ts_Darbari_Views #Ts_Darbari_Blogger #TS_Darbari_Comments #Ts_Darbari_Opinion #About_TS_Darbari #TS_Darbari_Articles #Politics #Views #Comments

  27. Good work , but Indian secularists will start crying and will say , this is the plan of a Hindutva agenda to suppress poor Muslims from Iran & Afghanistan.

    • Mr Reddy how about stop importing Crude oil from the desert of Arabia and Iran and other Muslim countries…eh that would be a nice idea isn’t it.

    • When Hindutvas believe that a jewelry ad showing a Hindu-Muslim wedding is a plan of the secular agenda to suppress poor Hindus in the country in which they hold absolute power, then you’re sure to have some dumb fights about nothing.

      • Well . An Ad showing a moslem gal marrying into a hindu fold should have been a counter act . Then the ugly truth will be out . Ofcourse it is everywhere to see but some prefer to be blind .

    • Am shocked at some people’s twisted thinking. They seem to see and think with safron coloured glasses. We must congratulate the people trying to start cultivation of HING. Most politicians go to foreign countries on pleasure trips at the COST OF PUBLIC money. Hardly any cultivator or group of enterpreniors are taken for study tours to advanced countries to learn the new techniques. So far I remember some cultivator were taken to Israel for drip irrigation system. Presently CHINA IS THE ONLY COUNTRY DEVELOPED AT THE HIGHEST PACE. How many people have been exposed to their way of around development? JUST THINK! Shri MODI JI has gone to China reportedly 17 times! And what did we get? Docklam and Ladakh! Sometimes I think INDIA IS STILL BACKWARD/DEVELOPING BECAUSE OF POLITICIANS OF ALL PARTIES. AND what can you expect when parties give tickets to murderers, rapists, black martketiors, smugglers, land grabbers and what not. At present more than 30% of elected representatives are reportedly having criminal background. अभी एक ही आस बाकी है मन्दिर बन रहा रामजी भला करेंगे।

    • Mr Reddy. Can you give any example when in past any secularist made hue and cry over the prohibition of export from any Muslim country . Why people like you see everything wearing colour glasses

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