I tried coriander farming after talking to local farmers. I was told the herb was usually in high demand and price for the produce was great. The last clincher was that the buyer would be the one to come and harvest and pack the coriander for transportation and market.
The first crop I planted was just a few rows in the greenhouse tunnel. Since I had never planted it before, when it was ready I put feelers out for the best way to sell the produce. A farmer in the area who was famed for his coriander farming, came by to inspect what I had. He advised me that what I had was a joke. He told me that for good returns , I needed to plant at least a quarter acre. In his view the bigger the area the better.
He offered that if I was serious in pursuing coriander farming, he was willing to show me the ropes. He was even willing to put his money where his mouth is. A partnership was discussed. The offer was that he would buy the seed, fertilizer, fungicides , insecticides and half the labor. I was to provide the land and the other half of the labor. He projected that once the coriander crop was harvested, we would be in the money. Banking on his track record, I was hooked.
We first planted an acre of coriander. We had the area ploughed, then created the furrows by hand with the help of some laborers, whom we worked right next to. The seed was sowed by scattering method. When I saw this I asked him how the plant would grow and be managed if it was sowed that way. The answer was that, to covering up of the seed was then done by dragging our feet and transversing opposite the line direction. This way, he assured me over 90% of the seed ended up the the rows. I must say that when the crop germinated, I was blown away at the clean rows the coriander grew in.
Since after the initial first acre, I still had some land that was fallow, he advised that we should plant another crop in the fallow land. So that the management and marketing was staggered, he advised that we would plant two weeks later.
From my experience, coriander management is not too difficult. The things that must be managed is water for irrigation and fungal diseases. The fungal disease that affects the crop causes unsightly black spots which lower the marketability of the produce. Weeding was the last issue to be sorted which was controlled by use of a selective chemical agent. Urea was applied to the field once when the crop was growing. This was so as to ensure good vegetative growth.
The first crop went well up until the point where the weather started to change. One morning there was some really bad frost. It wiped out most of the crop. On inspecting the planted plot, there was no salvaging the situation. This was point at which I knew in farming, to never count your chicks before they hatch. I couldn't believe that all that work and effort could be wiped out in one morning.
The second crop did a bit better, we were more keen in the management. However, there too arose a problem. There was some rain while the crop was growing. When the rains stopped , we had to devise how to irrigate. The irrigation system I had in place was inadequate as it could only irrigate an area of about 1/8 of an acre. He had a petrol driven pump but when we connected it up, it didn't have enough power to pump water to water the crops. Long story short that crop was also a bust.
The harvest was a mixed bag. About half the crop was nice and green and healthy, while the other was not. The watering issued caused this outcome as it was the only aspect that we were unable to mitigate.
The watering issue did cause the bad price we got for the crop. It was not even enough to break even. It only covered cost of input and labor. At this point I felt very disillusioned , more so about coriander farming. There are people who still swear by it, but I feel otherwise.
Wold I grow it again?
My experience with the two trials were not good. With especially the frost issue, and as I live in the highlands, I will not be making any more attempts at coriander farming. Whether it is such a hot commodity or not. In recent times too, I haven't heard any good tidings from growing the crop. I think this may be because there was a time it was profitable to grow coriander, but as the hype grew , the opposite happened for returns as markets became saturated with it.