West Jaintia Hills during Februay 2022 witnessed the first-of-its-kind Fly-Off Event to demonstrate the use of novel and innovative Drone/UAV technology for payload delivery, that could serve as a model of solving the 1st mile connectivity issues for Lakadong Turmeric farmers from the hinterland.
India produces 78 per cent of the world’s turmeric. In the year 2018-19, turmeric production was 389 thousand tonnes, with area and productivity 246 thousand hectares and 5646.34 kg per hectare respectively. The percentage of curcumin and oleoresin content in turmeric determines the demand by the industry along with the price. India is the largest producer and exporter of turmeric (APEDA, 2019). India exported US$ 236.5 million worth of turmeric in 2018 from US$ 182.53 million in 2017. Turmeric is a positive crop; it improves health and is not water guzzling.
The Lakadong Turmeric from West Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya is one of the world’s finest turmeric varieties with the highest curcumin content of 7-9% (in comparison to 3% or less in other varieties). It is fast becoming a game changer in the economy of the district. The State of Meghalaya has applied for a Geographical Indication tag for Lakadong turmeric.
Lakadong Turmeric has been identified under The One District, One Product (ODOP) Initiative under the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, as a product with excellent potential for growth and export for West Jaintia Hills.
Inspite of the highest curcumin content and excellent potential for domestic sales and export, Lakadong turmeric faces severe market access issues due to the remoteness of the location, topography and terrain. Thus, buyers have to incur additional costs to transport the goods from the villages via local pick-up trucks till the major transporters’ loading point. Additional costs of transportation and delays in the same act as barriers / disincentives for the buyer in the process of procurement.
ODOP partnered with AGNIi Mission, one of the nine technology missions under the Prime Minister's Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council to identify Indian innovative technologies that can play a transformative role in the end-to-end processing of Lakadong Turmeric, starting with leveraging payload drones (UAVs) to transport the turmeric in large quantities. It is a first step towards showcasing the innovative solutions that can propel 1st mile connectivity while ushering in Industrial Revolution 4.0.
The flyoff event would not only to give a fillip to the mandate of the ODOP initiative but also leverage modern technology as a fundamental solution to overcome the bottleneck of transportation that acts as a barrier in realizing the optimal potential of this exceptional spice from Meghalaya.