Mathili: Lemongrass cultivation is being promoted by the Odisha Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme (OTELP) in Mathili block of Malkangiri district. Oil is produced from lemongrass cultivation. However, the absence of takers for this variety of oil has become a cause for concern among the farmers. The farmers in Kartanpalli village under this block had to opt for distress sale of lemongrass oil recently. They lamented Monday that still large amounts have remained unsold and their efforts have gone to waste. Lemongrass farming was initiated at the village in 2021 on four acres of barren land of some handpicked people as a pilot project. The cultivation was undertaken under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and was executed by OTELP. A total of Rs 12.17 lakh was spent on the project.
To extract oil from lemongrass, an oil processing unit at a cost of Rs 8.65 lakh was set up at Kartanpalli village. An agency by the name of Odisha Agro had provided the machine for oil extraction. The villagers were trained to operate the machine and extract oil from lemongrass. The unit was inaugurated by the then project director, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA). After the initiation of the project, it was expected that it would go a long way in improving the economic condition of the poor tribals. Everything from farming to oil extraction is going on smoothly, but the main problem is lack of buyers, farmers lamented.
Lemongrass oil is used in manufacturing soaps, cosmetics and incense sticks. While encouraging farmers to take up lemongrass farming, the officials had said that a litre of lemongrass oil would be sold for Rs 2,000. However, that price never materialised. Instead only one trader used to buy the oil at Rs 1,500 per litre. Now, even that trader has stopped buying the product, the farmers informed. Among those involved in lemongrass farming, Jaysingh Bhumia and Pati Bhumia have 28 litres of oil each while Deba Bhumia has 14 litres, but they can’ find a buyer to sell their product. The farmers have said that OTELP should make provisions for marketing the product.
A blame game has also started. Manager of OTELP, Manoranjan Meher, said that Mathili BDO Ashish Bhoi is currently looking after the entire project. Since the block administration is managing it, they can only take the remedial steps to help out the farmers, he added. Efforts to contact Bhoi over phone were not successful as repeated calls remained unanswered.