Tamarind Tree – Is it a profitable crop to farm?

Tamarind is one of the key ingredients in south Indian cuisine. Though one of the sought out an ingredient, the price of a kilo of tamarind range from Rs. 80 to rs. 110. Unlike many other spices, tamarind has a lesser value. For the farmers, tamarind is not a highly profitable crop but is a sustainable one. 

Tamarind trees were planted on the sides of roads in Tamil Nadu in the early 1900s. These trees live a long life and provide shade. Tamarind trees are known to live up to 200 years. They are hardy and can withstand drought and floods equally. The downside to tamarind cultivation is that it takes 8-10 years to get any significant returns from it. When the trees are ready to fruit, the yield is very mediocre. Most trees yield up to 50 Kilos, while a good variety can yield up to 100 kilos per tree every year. Hybrid varieties like PKM1 are now available which can yield up to 263 Kilos (on the higher side) a year.

While tamarind trees and tamarind cultivation is not a widespread practice, there are advantages to tamarind cultivation in certain scenarios. Tamarind is a wonderful crop for drought-prone areas. The tree requires little to no irrigation throughout its life. It’s a sustainable crop for areas that are drought-prone. It’s a suitable crop for places where nothing else can be grown. 

Soil type is also not a concern for Tamaraind plants. Poor, degraded soil, alkaline soil with stones and pebbles works just fine for tamarind trees. An annual rainfall that is minimal can help the trees sustain for years. Some of the trees in Bangalore are known to be up to 400 years. (https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/tree-story-gets-a-sour-twist-54-acre-tamarind-grove-near-bluru-among-indias-few-biodiversity-heritage-sites-calls-for-help/articleshow/70185584.cms)

While farming tamarind is not a fully profitable model for farmers, it’s an essential and easy tree to sustain the balance of the ecosystem where no trees grow. It’s one of the few favorites of people who want to grow trees and increase plantations. Tamarind was grown in wastelands in Tamil Nadu. It’s a great plant to add to increase forestation. The increased shade with the sustainability of the tree itself will improve environmental conditions over the coming years. The addition of birds can be seen in many areas with tamarind cultivation. 

For a farmer though, the focus is more towards profit. With an acre of Tamarind cultivation with the highest variety, a farmer can expect 400 plants per acre. This is on the higher side with a variety like PKM1. A plant can yield up to 263 Kilos of fruit per year with an average of 10 Tonnes per acre. This averages to 8,42,000 Rs per acre a year. While this figure may seem too good to be true, the fact is, it is. 

If you notice, the price is calculated on the gross. What it does not take into account is the cost of processing the tamarind. Picking, removing the seeds and shells are essential before selling the produce. This takes manpower and is rarely done using machinery in India. The removal of seeds and shells also means lesser weight, reducing the total weight of the product by up to 60%. Eventually, if you look at the price you get, after reducing labor from the finished product, you can expect only 94 kg of finished product per tree or 320000 Rs worth of yield per acre. Now if you reduce approximately 1,00,000 for labor and other expenses, you will be left out with 2,20,000 per acre in profit every year.

Is it profitable to make 2 Lakh rupees every year? Yes, it is for most farmers. There is no doubt about it. While the cultivation of tamarind itself is easy and free from any hassle, the processing is the only concern for the farmers.

Its also to be noted that tamarind is known to have a very high fluctuation in rates. There are times when the price of tamarind drops from 80 Rs to 40 Rs per Kilo. It’s important that farmers also find provisions for storage if they require a higher price for their produce. 

To Be continued