The fragrance of the big headed cherry lady, circus, iceberg and the golden gate - all exquisite varieties of roses grown in India's northeastern state of Meghalaya - may soon fill the air in Japan, the Middle East and Europe.
The picture postcard pretty state of Meghalaya, also known as the abode of clouds and the Scotland of the East, is turning out to be one of India's biggest exporters of roses, the queen of flowers. Currently, Meghalaya grows more than two million roses annually and the state government is targeting to scale up the figure to over 20 million by 2010.
Taking the lead in growing roses on a scientific and commercial scale is the Dewlieh Horticulture Farm, set up under the horticulture initiative of the state government at Umsning in Ri Bhoi district. This centre has drawn up mega plans to tap foreign markets.
"Japan has a huge demand for roses and we are surely trying to make an entry there. Besides we see enough potential of marketing roses to Singapore, the Philippines, Europe, Australia and the New Zealand," B.K. Sohliya, project leader of Meghalaya's Horticulture Initiative (Roses), told IANS.
The different varieties of roses produced in the farm include cherry lady, iceberg, golden gate, corvette, tropical Amazon, grand gala, first red and circus. The interesting aspect of the flourishing rose trade is the active involvement of tribal women in Meghalaya.
Such has been the response that women have formed self-help groups to grow roses in the hills of the state.
"We do everything to grow roses and, with prospects of business increasing, we see good returns in the near future," said Mary Lyngdoh, a rose grower.
A bulk of the roses grown in Meghalaya is now finding its way to the metropolitan cities of the country, while some are exported to the Middle East.
"An estimated 80 percent of the roses are sold in the domestic market in Guwahati and other northeastern states as well as in Kolkata and Bangalore. Some go to the Middle East and Bangladesh," Lyngdoh said.
Roses and anthuriums of different hues and sizes grown in the adjoining mountainous state of Mizoram have already made inroads into the market in the Middle East. They do very well in the domestic markets too.
Mizoram cultivates roses in about 12,000 sq metres and produces about 1.3 million flowers annually. Anthurium is grown in about 31,000 sq metres, with the state producing about 1.7 million cut flowers a year.
Mizoram got into the global flower market when the first consignment of the exotic cut flower anthurium was exported to Dubai last year.
The cultivation of anthurium is taken up by farmers in Mizoram's capital Aizawl and in the East Garo Hills of Meghalaya. The plants are being grown along hill slopes under shade. The farmers grow the latest Dutch varieties using modern irrigation and fertilisation systems.
The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has provided subsidy for carting the consignment from the farm to the nearest airport, apart from the other general incentives on international freight.