Gundlupet: With Onam around the corner, the flower farmers of neighbouring Karnataka are busy nurturing their blossoms to ensure a steady flow of blooms to Kerala for the traditional flower arrangement or pokkalams for Onam celebrations starting from Atham. Atham day falls on August 20 and the Onam season extends till the Thiruvonam day on August 29.
In the farms of Gundlupet, an endless expanse of multi-colored fields greets visitors with marigolds, chrysanthemums, and sunflowers, providing a feast for the eyes as families pose with flowers, children run hither and thither joyfully clicking pictures, and couples immerse in selfies.
From Wayanad, crossing the sea of greenery along the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and the adjoining Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary, one can reach Kakkalthondi from where begins the riot of colours.
Farmers of villages from either side of National Highway 766 including Kakkathondi, Berambadi, Maddur, Channamallipura, Maddanahundi, Kannegala, and Bheemanabeedu are awaiting the visitors from the state who between harvests eke out a living from visitors’ fees.
Apart from visitors from Kerala, travellers from Mysore, Bengaluru, and the neighboring Nilgiri district also make a beeline to the flower fields.
Hardly an hour's drive from Sulthan Bathery, one can reach the flower fields; en route to the fields of blossoms, one can also spot herds of deer, elephants, gaur, and more. Almost all visitors to the rain-drenched destinations of Wayanad, do go to the flower fields of Gundlupet to take in the colours of nature.
This year due to a shortage of rain in June, there is a dip in the number of flower gardens, said farmers.
Flowers eyeing Onam market
Though the mainstay of the floriculture farmers is the paint companies, during the Onam season they receive good earnings as there is a regular flow of marigold and chrysanthemum to Kerala. Sunflower is cultivated for the oil industry. The deficit of rain hit the floriculture community of the region this year.
“Only in July we received good rains that too for a few days,” said Krishnan, a farmer of Maddur who was seen busy filling marigolds in nylon sacks with adequate air circulation while his son Deepak assisted him alongside the women of the house busy plucking flowers in the fields adjacent.
Krishnan told Onmanorama that though they have a regular supply of flowers to paint companies in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, they ensure special harvest for the Onam season. “Our single harvest for Onam would fetch us more money than our other ten harvests for companies,” Krishnan said, adding that while 1 kg flower fetches him Rs 8-12 from regular buyers, during the Onam sale, the price would go up even up to Rs 100 per kg.
“But this year due to the rain crunch, the cost of flowers would be higher due to poor harvest,” he pointed out. “Moreover, this year apart from the orange colour of marigold, other colours are rarely seen as many farmers failed to sow the seeds on time due to water shortage,” he pointed out.
Click images for a price
While driving through the NH, one can see long queues of visitors in front of flower fields, where farmers collect an entry fee for taking photographs. The fee varies from Rs 10-20, depending on the number of flower varieties on the farm.
Rethnamma, a farmer from Channamallipura, near Gundlupet, makes an average Rs 2,000 per day from visitors. “The number of visitors would be higher during the Onam season,” she said, adding that though they had raised a special crop for Onam, this year, flowers survived only on irrigated lands due to thin showers.
The paint companies as well as sunflower oil companies meantime provide quality seeds and manure apart from technical know-how of hi-tech cultivation for the farmers. Marigold is the favourite of the industry while chrysanthemums are preferred by the ornamental flower market.