Alappuzha: The annual harvest festival of Onam is just days away.
Households are eagerly waiting to ready the ‘Pookalams’ - the traditional flower spreads - from the day of Atham onwards, falling on August 20, to usher in the state's own unique cultural extravaganza.
Even though loads of flowers are brought in from neighbouring Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for Onam, the Kanjukuzhy belt of Alappuzha district has come alive with colourful blossoms in large quantities this time.
As one drives past Cherthala towards Alappuzha along the National Highway, occasional patches of blooms are commonplace.
Farmers in the region are of late experimenting with the cultivation of colourful flowers like marigolds and chrysanthemums in small fields or on premises of their homes.
Some have taken lands, even that of public sector companies like SILK (Steel Industries Kerala Limited), on lease to grow flowers in the hope of a windfall.
For a moment, one would get the feeling as though lost in the midst of an endless expanse of multi-coloured fields in areas such as Gundlupet, Thovalai, Movoor, or Sundarapandiapuram in the neighbouring states.
Thirty six-year-old Sujith S P, a full-time farmer who grows flowers in over a hectare, has his fingers crossed.
“We will start plucking the flowers from today (August 18) onwards. I’ve already received orders as people start laying Athapookalams from Sunday for the next 10 days,” said Sujith, a three-time winner of state awards for excelling in agriculture, including the Best Young Farmer (2014) and the Youth Icon (2022-23) awards.
“I will sell the flowers directly. For this, we will reach out to customers through various platforms, including social media. Otherwise, it won’t be sustainable as we face strong competition from flowers brought from outside. I’m employing 20 workers and there are other expenses like fertilisers and manure,” Sujith pointed out.
The flowers from neighbouring states will be available at Rs 70-80 per kg, however, these farmers couldn’t cover the farming costs unless they get a minimum price of Rs 100 per kg.
“I will sell a minimum quantity at first. We expect higher prices in days close to Thiruvonam,” the farmer, who also cultivates organic vegetables, said.
“Traditionally Kanjikuzhy has been a hub of organic vegetables and so many people here have taken to agriculture. However, people are now increasingly turning to growing flowers like marigolds as the Onam festival sets in,” he added.
Like Sujith, most of the flower growers are traditional vegetable growers and it’s harvesting time for them. They lease every available vacant plot and grow vegetables and flowers, mostly eyeing the demand during the Onam.
“I’ve taken on lease the land of SILK; I grow three types of flowers, including Banti and Vadamulla. I’m also cultivating 22 types of vegetables on 25 acres combined land, spread at various places,” said Subhakesan S, who has also won accolades from the state government for best agricultural practices.
People like Jyothish even started growing the colourful flowers on the premises of their houses. “It will bring you a fortune during Onam. So even in small quantity, we grow the flowers like marigolds and chrysanthemums,” he said.
Kanjikuzhy, a traditional hub of organic vegetables
Kanjikuzhy has been traditionally famous for organic vegetables, with a major portion of the residents indulging in vegetable farming. A large number of organic vegetable shops line either side of the national highway passing through the region. Oftentimes vehicles stop and purchase good quality vegetables.
“We’ve started harvesting the vegetables. Here, customers can get fresh vegetables straight from the farm. The Onam sales have begun; we’re experiencing a rush. However, the national highway widening activities have affected the sales to some extent this time,” said Sunil Kumar, a farmer who owns a vegetable shop at Thiruvizha.