Have you ever stood at a crossroads, knowing that one wrong turn could change everything?
India is at this crossroads today.
One road takes us to a future where Indian hemp will be like France’s Champagne.
The other road will make India’s hemp a lost opportunity, a game thrown away by one rash decision.
Why do I say this?
Because I’ve heard whispers that have taken away my sleep.
Some advisors to the Indian government, in a discussion about hemp, where I was also on the panel, said something that shook the ground beneath my feet.
“We should make it a policy decision to import hemp seeds, and then grow hemp on our soil.”
It’s like saying – “Let’s import tea seeds from the USA and sow them in Darjeeling.”
Absurd. Shocking. Disgusting.
Deep in the heart of Uttarakhand, amidst the towering Himalayas, I’ve witnessed the magic of hemp.
A bond, ancient and profound, that India shares with this wonder crop.
Import seeds? And kill the unique biodiversity of Himalayan hemp?
Have we forgotten the legend of Basmati rice? How is it not just rice, but an aroma that carries the essence of India?
Or the Darjeeling tea, not just a brew, but a sip of our heritage?
These aren’t mere products. They’re stories, bound by their geographical roots.
When the world sips Champagne from France, they toast to its legacy.
So, why, when it comes to hemp, are we ready to trade our story for someone else’s?
India and hemp share a bond, etched in history.
That’s from Hymn 6, Verse 15 from Book 11 of Atharva Veda-Samhita – one of the most revered religious texts in Hinduism.
It is evident that bhang or hemp is one of the sacred plants mentioned.
Yet, a cloud of misinformed decisions casts a shadow on this vision.
To the policymakers, to the visionaries, and to you, dear reader, I pose a question.
When we have the legacy, the history, and the potential, why this underconfidence?
Why does this tilt towards imports when our land beckons us?
In the pages that follow, I unravel five pressing questions. Questions that arise from this baffling stance of our government.
Dive in, reflect, and let’s find our path in this hemp narrative.
Question 1: We are buying ‘doubt’. Why?
What do I mean by doubt?
Across the globe, nations have established “approved cultivars” lists.
This makes sense. This ensures that THC levels in hemp remain within legal confines.
But why is controlling THC so crucial?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants.
High levels of THC can induce intoxicating effects, making it imperative for nations to regulate its concentration in hemp.
By keeping THC levels in check, we maintain the distinction between industrial hemp and its psychoactive counterpart, marijuana.
So you see, this isn’t just about rules; it’s about safeguarding our farmers and consumers.
The real trouble is that, for different countries, different levels of THC seem permissible.
Look at this:
|Country||Hemp THC Limit|
Now, a pressing concern emerges as we stand on the precipice of importing seeds.
How do we ensure these foreign seeds respect our Indian soil and its regulations?
How do we guarantee that they don’t betray our trust?
Who is responsible for the integrity of the supply chain?
I am an unashamed advocate of Indianness and all the more for hemp agriculture.
By championing our indigenous seeds, we eliminate this shadow of doubt.
We empower our farmers with the confidence that their hard work won’t be in vain, and that their crops will stand tall – compliant, and proud.
Question 2: Why push millions of farmers towards starvation?
Have you ever witnessed the magic of our farmers, on hemp farms?
It’s not just farming. There’s something of an ancient art to it. Techniques perfected over lifetimes. Legacies are passed down through generations.
How does seed import disrupt all this?
Our land, our soil, has stories to tell. Stories of our ancestors who cultivated hemp, understanding its rhythm and nuances.
If foreign seeds dominate our fields…
What happens to the intricate value chains built around India’s indigenous hemp seeds?
The local processing units, the traditional weaving techniques, and the small-scale industries that rely on the unique properties of our native hemp – all stand at risk.
By leaning towards imports, we’re not just sidelining our farmers. We’re erasing chapters of our history. We’re jeopardizing entire ecosystems built around our indigenous hemp.
Isn’t it ironic? In our quest for the ‘new’, we might lose ‘ours’.
Should we really trade our ancestral wisdom, our agricultural might, for the fleeting charm of foreign seeds?
Question 3: Why inflate the carbon footprint of Indian hemp?
Every hemp seed imported from the USA leaves a black trail of carbon.
Ships cross oceans, planes traverse skies – all add to our environmental debt.
A single transatlantic flight’s carbon emissions rival what many of us produce in a year.
Multiply that with frequent shipments, and the environmental cost is staggering.
Gandhiji, in his wisdom, embraced minimalism.
The Father of our nation gave up half his attire to make a point about self-reliance.
His message of ‘Swadeshi’ wasn’t just about self-sufficiency; it was about sustainability.
So, when we import seeds, aren’t we moving away from his teachings?
Moreover, this import-centric approach stands in stark contrast to our ‘Make in India’ sentiment.
We’re not just importing seeds; we’re importing doubt and exporting opportunities.
Question 4: Why Squander When We Can Prosper?
Every imported hemp seed is a dent in our nation’s purse.
Let’s break down the true economic cost:
Foreign Exchange Reserves
Each import dips into our reserves.
A small leak can sink a great ship.
Our forex reserves, though not overflowing, are hard-earned and precious.
Should we really be spending them on seeds when there are countless other pressing needs?
Profits to Foreign Shores
Remember the legend of Kaldasa.
He once sat on a tree branch and began cutting the very branch he was sitting on.
Will India end up doing something similar?
We’re cutting the economic branch we’re sitting on. Every seed imported is a missed opportunity for our local farmers, and the profits flow straight into foreign pockets.
Our indigenous seeds have the potential to be goldmines.
The Upanishads teach us about the importance of self-reliance.
By overlooking our own resources, we’re not just missing out on economic gains; we’re forsaking age-old wisdom.
Question 5: Why surrender our farming fortunes to the West?
Remember the 1970s oil crisis?
When major oil exporters flexed their muscles and choked the supply, economies worldwide staggered and stumbled.
Or think back to the Bengal Famine, exacerbated by the British diverting rice from India. Such is the power of dependency.
By importing hemp seeds, aren’t we setting ourselves up for a similar fate?
Today it’s seeds; tomorrow, it could be something even more crucial.
The winds of global politics are fickle. They shift, they change, and they can leave nations stranded.
Why should we sow the seeds of such vulnerability?
Especially when the soil of our motherland is rich and ready to nurture our own hemp legacy.
Let’s not be the nation that waits for the river to dry to realize the worth of every drop.
When does it make sense to import seeds?
Sometimes, we might need seeds from other countries. But when?
- No Local Seeds: If we don’t have a local type of a useful crop, we might get seeds from outside.
- Fighting Diseases: Some foreign seeds can resist certain pests or diseases better than our local ones.
- Changing Weather: With the weather changing, some foreign seeds might grow better here.
- Better Seeds: Some countries have advanced seeds that give more crops or better quality.
- Trying New Crops: To grow different types of crops, we might get seeds from other places.
- New Food Trends: If people here start liking a foreign dish, we might grow its ingredients by getting its seeds.
But, importing seeds has its problems. We might depend too much on others. We might forget our own farming ways. And, we might send too much money outside.
Now, let’s talk about India. Especially about its best place for growing hemp. Do we really need seeds from other countries there? Let’s see. Let’s put Uttarakhand to the test.
Does Uttarakhand need to import seeds?
Uttarakhand stands as a beacon of India’s hemp potential.
Uttarakhand’s land, blessed by nature and nurtured by tradition, is primed for hemp cultivation.
Why Uttarakhand is the Hemp Heartland of India:
|Requirements for Great Hemp||Uttarakhand’s Natural Advantage|
|Climate||Varied zones from subtropical to alpine. Summer: 20-25°C, winter freeze.|
|Soil Diversity||Fertile plains and hillside terraces. Soils: Inceptisols, Mollisols, etc.|
|Rainfall||Annual average: 1400-2800 mm. Monsoon: June-September.|
|Biodiversity||Unique flora and fauna for diverse hemp strains.|
|Water Resources||Ganges and Yamuna rivers for ample irrigation.|
|Topography||From snowy peaks to canyons, offering microclimates.|
|Cropping Patterns||Cropping intensity at 160.6% for multiple cycles.|
|Traditional Practices||Centuries of agricultural heritage aligned with hemp.|
|Altitude Variation||Ranges from subtropical to alpine for varied growth.|
|Knowledge Sharing||Agriculture-based culture for shared expertise.|
|Technological Integration||Modern techniques like hydroponics alongside tradition.|
I’m biased towards Uttarakhand, but I know hundreds of hemp experts who say that Uttarakhand is the best place in the world to grow hemp.
Then, why look elsewhere?
Let’s be the voice that says, “Our seeds, our pride.”
I was lucky enough to be among India’s first hemp CEOs.
And because of that, I have privileged access to policymakers in this space.
But when whispers of importing hemp seeds reached my ears, my heart sank.
Why look outside when our own land holds treasures?
Uttarakhand is a testament to India’s agricultural prowess.
Its diverse climate, rich soil, and age-old farming practices make it a jewel in India’s crown.
But here’s the thing – preserving our hemp isn’t just about economics.
It’s about a legacy.
It’s about the stories our grandparents told us, of the bond between a farmer and his field.
It’s about the very essence of India, nurtured by the hands that till our soil.
So, I ask you, isn’t it time we honor this bond?
Why seek foreign seeds when our own are steeped in history and promise?
Why not stand by our farmers, our land, and our legacy?
For those who dream of a self-reliant India, here’s my plea:
Let’s champion our indigenous hemp.
Let’s be the voice that says, “Our seeds, our pride.”
After all, isn’t it said, “What grows in our soil, nourishes our soul”?
So, will you join me in this journey to cultivate a brighter future for India’s hemp?