CSIR-IHBT (Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology), Palampur, has introduced Asafoetida or Heeng for cultivation in India through the NBPGR (National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources), New Delhi. As per the official records, this is the first effort in the country in the last 29 years.
CSIR-IHBT procured seeds of six accessions of asafoetida on 25 October 2018 and 4 December 2018 vide import permit Nos. 318/2018 & 409/2018, respectively. The institute is growing these seeds under the vigil of NBPGR, New Delhi.
Heeng is a common kitchen ingredient widely used in Indian cuisines and among the most significant flavours. Despite its popularity and use Heeng is not produced in India, rather imported from Afghanistan, Iran, and Uzbekistan. The Heeng plant is native to the deserts of Iran and hills of Afghanistan where it is grown in considerable amounts. Scientists at CSIR-IHBT are now all set to grow this valuable spice in the Indian Himalayas.
Initiating the mission in India, as a trial, Heeng was planted for the first time on 18 October 2020 at Lahaul and Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh at an altitude of about 11 thousand feet above sea level. Presently only seven farmers have been given the Heeng plants for cultivation as a part of the trial.
Approximately 1200 tons of raw asafoetida worth around Rs 600 crore is imported every year from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan. However, with the homegrown beginning, its import is expected to decline in the future.
Asafoetida is an enduring plant and after five years of its cultivation produces oleo-gum resin from the roots. It can be cultivated in unused sloppy land of cold desert regions. The spice is extracted from the stem and taproot of the plant.