Utkrisht Pandey who hails from Uttar Pradesh entered into the farming of white sandalwood and black turmeric after quitting his dream job.
He was serving as an Assistant Commandant in the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in 2016 and started his company Marcelone Agrofarm at Bhadauna village in Pratapgarh, about 200 km from Lucknow.
“It was a dream job for me to join CAPF. I worked in different states, including Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam, for about five and a half years. During the job, it was always there in my mind that I should have to do something for my village to help them and improve their living standards and I was of the view that plantation of crops will help me in that. I also want the youth to help the country in becoming self-reliant,” PTI quoted Pandey said.
In 2016, the officer quit the job and started exploring different areas and finally arrived at getting into sustainable farming of white sandalwood and black turmeric.
“Everybody was of the view that sandalwood can grow only in South India. But I studied in greater detail that we can do that in north India also. I completed a course at Bengaluru-based Institute of Wood Science and Technology (IWST), which is recognised as a best institute for sandalwood research,” he added.
Initially there were some apprehensions in the minds of “my family members, but I convinced them about my idea,” Pandey said.
The retired officer began work from his four-acre parental farm land. He also visited different agriculture universities and met farmers to understand natural and organic farming.
“There are huge economic values of sandalwood in the world. It is mainly used in the making of perfumes, but it has medicinal properties also. The value is harvested after about 14 to 15 years of plantation. So I started the cultivation,” he said.
Though sandalwood has many varieties, white and red are mostly cultivated in the southern part of the country. Due to its therapeutic and cosmetic value, white sandalwood is more expensive. White sandalwood is mainly grown in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
“People in my village, after getting the information about its economic value, started joining hands with me particularly during Covid lockdown times. Many people showed their keenness and they are now part of my company. It is also helping me in containing migration of rural youth to urban centres,” Pandey said.
According to him, a farmer can fetch over Rs 2 crore from about 250 trees, once they are fully grown in 14-15 years. Similarly, black turmeric fetches about Rs 1,000 per kilogram depending on its quality.
“There is a huge demand for this sandalwood and black turmeric in the domestic market,” he said, adding, “it helps in creation of jobs, increases farmers income and helps in securing future.”
To promote organic farming, Pandey is promoting use of cow dung manure or vermicompost in the farms.
Going forward, he wants to increase the acreage in order to start exports.
“I am also looking to raise funds for the company. If corporates can come forward and help, we can start exports soon,” he said.
(With inputs from PTI)