As the Punjab government is struggling to make farmers shift to an alternative cropping pattern, Patiala Horticulture Limited, a company in Samana area of Patiala, has set an example for others.
It grows different exotic vegetables at Chak Amritsarian, Bijalpur, Samana, Wajidri, Sahahpur and Pedpur villages on the outskirts of Patiala, exports these vegetables to Perth, Brisbane and Sydney in Australia, London in England, Brussels in Belgium and the Netherlands, has engaged 22 farmer families and also given employment to around 250 rural women.
A major portion of the exports is in Perth.
The company also has a tie-up with a local rural society, Uttam Kheti Kisan Bhaichara, for promoting diversification and alternative cropping patterns.
The company, which is led by retired excise department official Karamvir Singh Sidhu, is engaged in growing exotic vegetables for the past 15 years and is expected to touch a turnover of Rs. 5 crore this season. Sweet peas and sugar snaps have started earning good revenue for Sidhu, who is fetching good price for the produce in the international market.
The company also owns a cold store, a pre-cooling unit and a pack house built at a cost of Rs. 1 crore.
Punjab Agri Export Corporation has also built a cold store for the company and is giving subsidy in freight charges for exporting vegetables.
The model of agriculture adopted by Sidhu is the bright side of Punjab's stagnant agriculture which is struck in the wheat-paddy cycle. "There is a long story of hard work before reaching this level," said Sidhu, who says he is confident that there is no looking back now.
"Gross income from one acre by growing sweet peas and sugar snaps is Rs. 1.5 lakh to Rs. 1.8 lakh during one season of three months and the net earning is Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 80,000 which is better than any other crop," said Sidhu, adding that the produce from the farmers is picked up at Rs. 60 per kilogram.
"We started growing exotic vegetables in 1998 and the exports began in 2001. Initially, the things were difficult, but later it picked up," said Sidhu, who plans to start growing baby corn and okra during the summer season, after the current season of sweet peas and sugar snaps is over.
Sidhu sees a huge market for okra to Japan and London. "It would be a big success for our company if we start exporting okra to Japan, which is a lucrative market," added Sidhu.
Exotic vegetables are grown on about 100 acres and the company plans to grow okra on 80 acres and baby corn on 150 acres.
Kamaljeet Singh, a farmer attached with the company since 2005, said he was getting good returns. "I enjoy my work and also play an important role in the day-to-day functioning," he added.