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RED REVOLUTION The hill state of Uttarakhand is silently scripting a red revolution of sorts on the Himalayan reaches.

Growing a lesser known red cereal crop, amaranth, is opening up new vistas for the farmers settled in the upper areas where staple plantations of wheat and paddy are not possible because of extreme climate conditions and mountainous topography. Amaranth is a traditional fibre-rich plant used in baby food products, breads, etc. for its high protein content and other nutritional values. In the past two years, international demand for amaranth has risen to the extent that the farmers in the state are unable to meet the supply orders. Demand for amaranth is largely from the overseas markets of South Africa and the Netherlands. The cereal is grown only in this state. Even as the area under amaranth cultivation has increased over the years, the demand and supply is a mismatch, perhaps to the advantage of the farmers, said Binita Shah, senior programme manager, Uttarakhand Organic Commodity Board (UOCB). Shah said the state, which acts as a facilitator, has an estimated standing demand of over 1,000 tonnes from overseas buyers, against an estimated production of close to 600 tonnes expected this year. A few years ago, our visit to higher areas in the state brought to the fore a sordid tale. Farmers used to barter amaranth for 2 kg of wheat, salt and a little more. Today, their income has increased manifold, she said. To augment the demand, both in terms of export orders and domestic supplies, the government is laying more emphasis on plantation of organic amaranth to empower farmers, said Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank. From insignificant gains till some years ago, farmers this year got a handsome Rs 3,500 per quintal of amaranth, up nearly 30 per cent since last year. Close to 5,000 hectares of area in upper areas of Garhwal, Uttarakashi, Chamoli, Rudraprag is under amaranth production and just about 500 hectares under certified organic produce in Uttarakhand. Rajinder Singh Negi of Sarkot village in Chamoli said, We are using organic seeds and BT compose in Choulai (amaranth) cultivation. Its just been two years and demand has outstripped supply. This year we got Rs 3,500 per quintal of produce, against Rs 2,500 last year. The state government is buoyed by the demand picking up in the domestic market. Shah said, Yoga guru Ramdevs ashram in Hardwar turned up as a buyer this year. However, the purchase was not huge. We have buyers from Gujarat who procure the plant solely for export. Farmers are provided with special bags by the companies to stock the produce. Sunder Singh, a farmer from Parwari village in Chamoli district, said amaranth plantation has proved a boom for them since other traditional plantations are not possible in higher hill reaches

where they stay. All we do after production is transport the produce in bags to the designated rail and road linkage in Rishikesh, he said. Amaranths is valued world over as a vegetable, cereal, and an ornamental plant. It has the potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable land care, UOCB experts said, adding that amaranth is a good source of vitamins A, K, B6, C, riboflavin, and dietary minerals.