Roots of the plant Chikory, which is now being grown in large areas in different parts of the State, particularly in and around Aligarh, with the help of multi-national coffee companies, are being dried, roasted, and then its extract mixed in coffee up to 30 per cent by the companies.
These companies are encouraging farmers to quit traditional farming and grow Chikory for which they are providing not only technical know-how but also 100 per cent buyback guarantee with lucrative profits unheard in traditional farming.
Dr SM Ilyas, vice-chancellor of the Acharya Narendra Dev Agriculture University, Faizabad, an expert on Chikory farming, said there was nothing wrong in mixing a maximum of 30 per cent of Chikory roots' extract in coffee as it was permitted by the Government of India with a rider that it should be clearly mentioned on the wrapper of the coffee bottle that it contained 30 per cent Chikory.
Dr Ilyas said the extract of Chikory roots was mixed with coffee for blending, better taste and for thickening of coffee paste.
However, there was no mention of Chikory on coffee bottles of a particular multi-national company, which was buying the maximum of Chikory from farmers in Uttar Pradesh.
Nagendra Sharma, who has set a plant with an investment of over Rs 1.50 crore in Iglas in Aligarh to make cubes, dry and roast Chikory roots, told Hindustan Times that presently he was supplying 2500 tonnes of treated Chikory roots every year to a particular coffee multinational company at the rate of Rs 1250 per quintal. Sharma said that 417 farmers in Iglas alone were growing Chikory in more than 1200 acre of land and number of farmers interested in Chikory farming was on the rise because of the economy.
Sharma claimed that a farmer earned a profit of around Rs 20,000 per acre in Chikory farming, that too with a facility of immediate cash down payment, which no other crop could give. We are not able to meet the growing requirement of Chikory by various big coffee companies, he said.
The Uttar Pradesh Diversified Agriculture Project (UPDASP) has also been encouraging farmers to go in for Chikory farming and it was the result of the UPDASP efforts that a big success story has been written in Chikory farming in Aligarh and neighboring areas.
The farmers may get huge profits from multinational companies by growing Chikory but will it not ultimately adversely affect overall produce of pulses and other cereals, asks a senior officer of the Agriculture Department.