Bay Leaf Farming and Feasibility
Market Exposure: National & Export
Cultivation area in India: Bayleaf is commonly grown in the Himalayas, North East India, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala and Karnataka.
Market Price: Low Medium Pricing But steady. The organised market in Meghalaya, East Khasi Hills has a list price of 2700 Rs per Quintal average throughout the year 2022.
Export Potential high
Cultivation Knowledge: Easy to cultivate but requires time for first yield as the tree requires to be at the age of 4 or 5 before the first harvest
Infrastructure cost: Moderate. Drip irrigation is required where drought or scarcity of water is a possibility. The plants require constant irrigation and the soil is required to be wet. Weeding can be avoided by mulching which also acts as a protection from the evaporation of water.
Processing: Bay leaf requires minimal processing but 5-6 days of drying. Harvesting should not be done when the plants are wet or during rainy seasons.
Climate for Cultivation: Bay leaves prefer moist weather conditions and will thrive where moisture content is high. though the plant is drought tolerant, frost tolerant and can even grow in conditions where salinity is high, the best quality of plant and leaves are produced in areas where moisture content is high and the weather conditions are between 18 and 30 degrees celsius.
Ideal Soil for Cultivation: Though Bay leaf can accommodate most soil conditions, it grows well in well-drained soil. Clay soil and sandy soil are not usually preferred by can be corrected with gypsum (in the case of Clay soil) to loosen the soil up a bit. A sandy loam soil is best suited for Bay leaf. The soil should be medium rich and the addition of compost can help the growth of the plants.
Varieties of Bay Leaf: The Indian Bay Leaf is the most common variety of bay leaves cultivated in India. they are also referred to as tej patta, tej pat, Malabar leaf, Indian bark Indian cassia and malabathrum. Scientifically known as Cinnamomum tamala, the Bay leaf plant falls in the family of cinnamon. Its bark is also used as a cheaper variety of cinnamon but lacks the quality and flavour of Lankan cinnamon.
Propagation: Propagation for the cultivation of Bay leaf plants can be done from seed or Cuttings. The most popular and preferred propagation method is the Cutting method which provides a true variety of the plant as the parent. Seeds are harder to propagate and take a lot more time and are not commercially feasible to propagate from seeds. Many farmers do still propagate Bayleaf plants from seeds but many who propagate for commercial purposes prefer cuttings or air layering for faster growth and propagation, not to mention the right quality too.
Season: Bayleaf is harvested post-monsoon when the weather is dry. It can be harvested throughout the year as long as the trees are not wet. The plantation of new trees is done during spring. The spring provides better sunlight for the plants and thus better growth. Monsoon is not preferred for the beginning of plantations in parts which have rainfall throughout the year. Light rain during spring is good for the better growth of plants. the best season in the eastern parts of India is often after September when the monsoon ends. Places like Meghalaya which is one of the highest producers of the bay leaf have good weather for plantations after September and have only a short spell of dry weather during December and march.
Land Preparation: Land preparation for Bya leaf is almost the same for other plants. Tilling and removal of other plants and weeds followed by heavy organic fertilizers, usually compost or cow dung or a mix of both is preferred. the land should be well drained and proper provision of water drainage should be thought out.
Planting, Spacing and Density. Planting bay leaves is done best during the onset of spring. A drip irrigation facility is required if your area is prone to hot summers. The Bay leaf trees grow up to 66 feet, which is huge, but in commercial plantations, the trees are regularly pruned and the leaves harvested. a good height for the tree for easy maintenance is roughly 10 feet. The distance between trees should be around 6 meters trees this allows ample space between trees to walk around, prevent weeds from growing under the tree due to poor sunlight and also prevent evaporation of water from the soil, near the root area. with a distance of 3 meters by 3 meters you can plant approximately 154 trees per acre which is quite low but high-density cropping is often not recommended in Bay leaf crops.
Intercropping: intercropping of vegetables is common in the first 2 years but cannot be practised after the second year once the plant grows. Growing root vegetables like carrots, beetroot, potatoes, onion and garlic are common where weather permits. All vegetable crops can be cultivated as long as they are annual and do not compete for sunlight with the bay leaf plants.
Irrigation: irrigation is the most important requirement for the cultivation of bay leaves. The soil should be moist throughout the year but not waterlogged. during summers, it’s important to water the plants thoroughly at least once a week for mature plants and once in 2-3 days for smaller plants. monsoons should be managed with proper drainage and by ensuring that there is a drainage facility for water to be removed and not waterlogged throughout the season.
Fertilizers: During the first 3 years, the plant will require some form of fertilizers for faster growth. once established, the bay leaf plants require minimal fertilizers and management. They usually fare well once they reach a height of 3 meters and there is usually no requirement for fertilizers at all. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to supplement the soil with organic material annually. addition of compost or cow dung can be beneficial for the soil and also the plants. addition of Chemical fertilizers is often not required or encouraged.
Pests: Thrips, Aphids and Psyllids are the 3 common pests in Bay leaves. Organic control includes a mixture of neem oil with soap which can be sprayed when you notice them. Chemical formulas are often not encouraged as they may leave residues on the leaves.
Training and Pruning: Pruning may be required to encourage the branching of the plant but training is rarely done to keep the tree at a manageable height. Trees are pruned and trained post-monsoon and should never be done during monsoon. Cutting the branches just before monsoon or during monsoon has a high chance of rots in the area or infections which could kill the branch or tree itself at times.
Harvesting: Harvesting can be done throughout the year but it’s usually done post-monsoon when there are no rain and sunshine is good. Harvested leaves are to be dried and drying in the sun is not usually possible when the weather is bad or rainy. A good harvest happens during the spring.
Post Harvest: once the leaves are harvested, they are dried for 5-7 days. The leaves are usually sun-dried and should be perfect for packaging in 7 days. There is no processing involved post-harvest.
Yield: An average tree has a potential yield of 35 kg per year. Most farms will have only 30-40 Trees per acre as they are not pruned or trained. But an average of 30-40 trees have a potential of 500-600 KG per year per acre in yield. which would amount to 12500 rs per year per acre.
Market information: The market for bay leaves is steady. The prices don’t fluctuate much and there is a huge potential for Indian Bay leaves worldwide, which makes it a high-priced product for exports. Unfortunately, for the farmer, the prices are usually low and range from 1200-1500 rs per quintal.
Weed Control: Weed control is essential during the first 2 years of the crop. Weed control can be done manually or you could intercrop for additional revenue during the first 2 years for better profit. Mulching is often practised to prevent weeds and reduce evaporation.
Yield Profit Per acre: Fortunately, there is no cost involved in the cultivation of bay leaves but then there is also a low price margin. Leaves should be harvested and dried and this takes a bit of money. dried leaves are also light and it takes a good quantity to make a quintal. A tree produces 35 Kg of dried leaves a year which is 525 rs per tree. per acre Yield of Bay leaves would amount to roughly 525 kg. An average of 50% is spent on labour and drying. this leaves out a very less amount when you consider revenue per tree. The Meghalaya Spice board states that the average realization per acre is meagre of 5000 rs per year.
Cost of farming: Fortunately, there is very less cost involved in farming bay leaves. Bay leaves plants only require regular irrigation and an annual fertilizers schedule which is optional after the 5th year. Trees are easy to maintain and what is cut is usually used and turns out to be revenue. The first 2 years may incur costs of weedking, fertilizers and irrigation. from the 3rd year, there is no maintenance involved at all.
India Exported 578 Million USD Worth of Bay Leaves in the year 2021. China was the Lead exporter with 771 Million USD worth of Bay leaf exports. Indian Bay Leaf exports amount to 17%. Primary exports from India go to the USA, UAE and Bangladesh.