Amongst HNWs of Indian descent across the world, there is growing curiosity about Ashwagandha. Recently, we found ourselves sitting the in palace of Indian billionaire in Dubai discussing whether he should step up his investments related to this root crop which is the new King of Ayurveda.

Ashwgandha is India’s version of ginseng and is said to help the body cope with stress i.e. consuming this root crop can help lower your stress levels and improve your immunity. Depending on who you talk to and what their pitch is, Ashwagandha can also enhance libido and stamina.

The world headquarters of the Ashwagandha boom is the district of Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh.

The Print’s Sagrika Kissu visited Amlikheda village in Neemuh to write this excellent story. She writes: “Almost every farmer in Madhya Pradesh’s Amlikheda village has a secure, locked room in the discreet corners of their homes. It’s not the family gold they are guarding. It’s sackfuls of the new global wonder herb ashwagandha….

Badri Lal, 43, has desisted from selling three quintals of ashwagandha roots since March 2023. Every morning, he checks the mandi rates on his smartphone, calls traders to negotiate, goes to his corner room, taps to check on the huge sacks of produce, and, with an air of confidence, gets back to bargaining with traders again.

There was even an ashwagandha heist in Neemuch last year. Twenty quintals of the herb, stored in a trader’s godown, were stolen. Headlines announcing “11 arrested for stealing Ashwagandha worth Rs 12 lakh; 4 accused still on the run,” spread in the villages.”

The foundations of the ongoing Ashwagandha craze were laid during the Covid-19 pandemic: “In the Neemuch district, a new mini-green revolution has taken root since the Covid-19 pandemic spooked the world and immunity boosters became a buzzword in India and abroad.

Since the pandemic started, about a thousand farmers here have moved away from their traditional soybean and garlic crops and switched to ashwagandha. Many cashed in.

From Organic India to Himalaya to Natural Remedies, there is a race between brands to acquire more ashwagandha. Even Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali used the herb procured from Neemuch mandi for Coronil…

Called “Indian ginseng” across the world, ashwagandha from Neemuch mandi has reached markets in the Czech Republic, Canada, and the United States. It is the new king of Ayurveda.

India is the top producer and exporter of the herb, with Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan leading the way,”

So what are the economics of growing Ashwagandha that is resulting in Indian billionaires turning their minds to it? “…the Neemuch farmers started selling 1 kg of ashwagandha for Rs 500-600, well above the earlier going rate of Rs 100-150…

The markets, domestic and international, have been hungry for ashwagandha, used in Ayurvedic formulations to strengthen immunity, reduce stress, and increase stamina. Sales in the US alone spiked by 225 per cent in 2021 from the previous year, reaching $92 million dollars in 2021, the ministry has reported. From being 34th on the chart of top-selling herbs in the US in 2018, ashwagandha jumped to number 7 during Covid in 2021…

Farmers are now business-savvy, striking deals directly with big brands like Organic India, Jio Fresh, and Himalaya that flock here to buy ashwagandha…

The spoils are already visible. Expensive cars like Scorpios, Thars, and Hyundai i20s line the roads and many farmers live in spacious two-storey bungalows with big courtyards and enclosures for cattle….

Many farmers are unhappy with mandi rates and said that they should be getting closer to the market price. They want to upgrade their i20s to Range Rovers.”

To help you contextualise how much money can be made from cultivating Ashwagandha (and to understand how Indian agriculture is changing) Ms Kissu profiles a farmer, Narendra Patidar’s experience of growing this root: “…Narendra Patidar credited everything from his 101-year-old grandfather’s longevity to never contracting Covid to their daily habit of consuming the herb.

Patidar also praised ashwagandha for turning around his finances. He decided to ramp up his cultivation of the herb after a Krishi Vigyan Kendra seminar, organized by scientist Yatin Mehta who has worked in the district for 10 years.

These seminars happen every few months, and farmers receive notifications via WhatsApp. Patidar attended one in 2016, where he and other small-scale ashwagandha growers learned about the crop’s potential.

Inspired by the cultivators, Patidar shifted from growing it on half an acre to 5 acres. The results exceeded his expectations. He’s paid off all his debts, has a big house, and now owns 70 acres of land, dedicating 20 of them to ashwagandha cultivation.

Patidar’s top buyer is Organic India. Every year since 2018, the assistant area manager of the brand has visited Patidar during September’s cropping season to finalise a deal.

Last year, Patidar sold 350 quintals of ashwagandha to the company for Rs 25 lakh and has set the same target again.

Organic India area manager Samrath Patidar said that before the pandemic, the company would procure 150-200 quintals from the mandi, but now, customers’ appetite has shot up, especially in the US.

“There was a boom. In 2021, we purchased 55 MT (550 quintals),”

Samrath Patidar explained. “There is a lot of demand in the American market for the crop. Our prime market is in the US,” he said.

For about 10 years, Organic India bought ashwagandha from the mandi but found that the quality was not up to expectations. The company started procuring directly from farmers in 2018 to ensure that it met high standards.

From sowing to harvesting, Samrath Patidar oversees every process to ensure that he gets the right variety and grade of ashwagandha.

It’s not just Organic India. Other big players like Himalaya, Sunflag Argotech, Jio Fresh, and Natural Remedies also procure ashwagandha directly from Neemuch farmers….”

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