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Governor hails pineapple growers of Hmarkhawlien

Silchar, June 23: During his recent visit to Hmarkhawlien, the second largest Hmar village in Assam, Governor of Assam P B Acharya praised the pineapple growers of the area for their hard labour to produce and increase the production of cash-crop. He responded to the call of Barak Valley Pineapple Grower Association (BVPGA) and after inaugurating International Yoga Day, he came in their midst. The Governor in his brief speech before the Hmar people in general appreciated their sustained efforts to become self-dependent by scientifically utilizing the hilly areas around their village for pineapple cultivation despite all the adversities.
Through the Governor due to paucity of time could not go around pineapple gardens located by the side of NH 37 and their liquidated processing unit, he expressed his regret and promised when time came he would meet them again. Hmar cultural dance was presented before him by Edith Douglas English High School. After his felicitation and reception, Van Tuolor, president BVPGA, read out a report in which he highlighted the importance of pineapple and how the cultivation was facing many problems.
It is to be noted that Hmarkhawlien is a village of the Hmars, the second largest tribal group in Barak Valley after the Dimasas. The villagers who depend on agriculture and seasonal pineapple plantations for their livelihood are yet to get better surface connectivity, safe drinking water facilities, regular power supply as well as health services. It was the Welsh missionary Rev. Watkin Roberts, alias Joute Herald Brown, who came down to this remote area in 1916 in the Lakhipur sub-division of Cachar, and is believed to be behind the making of Hmarkhawlien.
The growing level of literacy among the Hmas has contributed towards urbanization of the villages around and creating better avenues of employment. The pineapple plantation initiated by Rev. Watkin Roberts has lured the Hmars from other areas to this developing village. The collective income generated from this seasonal cash crop is estimated to be around Rs.25 lakh. But, with the margin of profit being low due to various factors, the villagers are thinking of switching over to other cash-crops. Hmars have reason to rejoice at the growing literacy.
Though the pineapple growers have been going through ups and downs in their business, it was a few years ago that the summer brought in a surge in production which led to huge profits. With the demand of pineapples always growing being one of the sweetest and coolest fruit, the growers cannot increase the area of cultivation due to various constraints, as pointed out by Van Tuolor. The summer of fruitfulness could hardly be forgotten by them as 20 lakh pieces of pineapples were produced during autumn alone. Though the autumnal fruit is not as sweet as that of summer, still consumers across Barak Valley and beyond have different taste and preparations from the pineapple which contains 16 to 18 percent sugar.
Notwithstanding the appreciable production every summer and also autumn, the growers face many problems in marketing. This includes the lack of a modern cold storage for storing the fruit and the recurrent non-availability of a proper transport system to ferry the pineapples to both the wholesale and retail outlets in the district and outside, pointed out Lalhuolthanga Hmar, leader of Barak Valley Tribal Community.
A visit to Hmarkhawlien any time this summer is bound to unfold the scene of piles of the pineapples stacked high at different places by the side of National Highway 37, connecting this town with Imphal. It is really a pleasant scene for one to see farmers collecting pineapples from the groves and then unloading them in the rows of trucks lining the highway. One particular feature of the Hmarkhawlien fruit farmers is their collective reluctance to use fertilisers, pesticides and insecticides. In a nutshell, the farming of pineapples is the mainstay of the economy of about 5,500 inhabitants of Hmrkhawlien.
It is really unfortunate that the farmers despite repeated representations to the sub-divisional administration and the state have failed to move them for reviving the only pineapple processing factory lying almost inoperative for more than two decades. The factory will enable them the orchard owners to arrange exports in the form of canned sliced fruits and juices. (Source:SentinelAssam)

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