For Maval’s farmers, roses are sweeter than sugar cane | India News

A Group Of 17 Farmers In Pune’s Backyard Makes A Break With The Traditional Crop Cycle To Grow Flowers For Export
In Pune’s Maval region, farms that have cultivated paddy and sugar cane for generations are now growing Dutch roses. Their roses are so good that they have found a market in Japan, Australia and the Netherlands. You can also find them at weddings and other functions from Jammu & Kashmir to Chennai, and from Jaipur to Guwahati.
The 17-member Pawana Phool Utpadak Sangh started by Mukund Thakar grows roses on 55 acres here. A day’s produce can range from 1 lakh to 2 lakh roses, and they earn Rs 30 lakh to Rs 40 lakh per month.
“Our busiest time is the fortnight before Valentine’s Day when we plan and work furiously to export 3 lakh to 4 lakh roses per day. This February, we set a new record by supplying 12 lakh roses to the domestic market and 8 lakh outside,” Thakar said.
Steep Learning Curve
But it’s taken them years of struggle to get here. There was a time when Thakar almost gave up on rose cultivation. He had taken a bank loan in 2007 to start his polyhouse over 10 gunthas of land in Yewle village near Pune (one acre has 40 gunthas). The venture wasn’t profitable and Thakar was forced to borrow more to pay his loan installments.
He made a last-ditch effort to make it work by visiting the big flower markets in Mumbai, Hyderabad and several other cities. Everywhere, he saw a huge difference between the roses sold through brokers and those marketed directly. He realised that he needed more land to scale up.
“Good quality roses can earn a fortune, but I had no technical knowledge or guidance. So, I began experimenting on my own land using better fertilisers, made sure the polyhouses were topnotch and could withstand the harsh sun and winds, and had ample moisture in the entire cultivation area. I also called experts to visit and advise me,” Thakar said.
He joined a month-long course at the Talegaon-based National Horticulture Centre. Talegaon has around 300 acres under flower cultivation and its own flower growers’ association. Slowly, Thakar’s yield increased and his loan repayment became regular.
Roping In Others
Thakar looked at expansion after five years. “I convinced my elder brother, my uncle and two of my brothers-in-law, who were into traditional farming of paddy and sugarcane, that a bigger area under rose cultivation meant bigger profits. I could not buy land but could make use of theirs,” he said.
His bold venture inspired others. Tanaji Shendge, a member of the growers’ association, said he quit his banking job in 2016 when he saw the earnings from roses. “I set up polyhouses on four acres and now employ 40 people. Going from an employee to an employer is such a liberating feeling,” Shendge said. Now, many farmers offer their land to the association for rose cultivation, and they growDutch roses in new colours.
Thakar’s elder brother Dnyaneshwar said, “We earn more, provide for our families and contribute to the community. My wife manages the production in my polyhouses. ”
The Pawana Phool Utpadak Sangh has also inspired other farmers in the region to grow roses, and they could benefit from the various subsidies that Maharashtra offers under its farmer-producer schemes, said Dattatray Padval, Maval taluka’s agriculture officer.
A polyhouse covering one acre costs around Rs 70 lakh, for which the farmer gets 50% subsidy from the National Horticulture Board. A cold room and a processing centre require further investment of up to Rs 15 lakh for two acres, and growers get 40% subsidyon these. “Each farmer is permitted a polyhouse on twoand-a-half acres so that others can also avail of the subsidies,” Padval said.
Rain, Heat Keep Them On Toes
A polyhouse for roses should maintain 32-35 degrees Celsius temperature and 65-75% humidity. Winter is the ideal season for harvesting, but events like the untimely rains in April and more than 40-degree heat through most of May this year have kept them worried.
Dutch roses are not easy to store either. The growers have to follow an eight-stage process, starting with plucking in the morning. The flowers are precooled in a cold storage unit, then sorted by size, bunched, loaded into crates, and again cooled for at least three days before being sent to the market.
An association member had visited Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Dubai and Malaysia to directly contact foreign buyers and eliminate middlemen. Now, foreign buyers visit their cold storage to check the quality of flowers and strike deals. Pradip Thakar, another association member, will soon visit several exhibitions abroad to expand their network.
Rewarding Despite Risks
Rose growers have to face many uncertainties. The Covid-19 pandemic was tough on them. In 2021, a cyclone damaged their polyhouses. And with three-fourths of their workers being outsiders, finding hands in the peak season can be difficult. “But we have covered all our losses in two years and earned good profits,” Dnyaneshwar said.

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