Tanager Propagates Income for Farmers Through World’s Largest Mint Planting Material Supply Chain

Summary

  • The Shubh Mint project has significantly improved mint oil yields and increased incomes in Uttar Pradesh by providing high-quality planting material (stolons) to smallholder farmers. 
  • Quality stolons from the program produce 55 to 60 kg of crude mint oil per acre, compared to 40 to 45 kg from local-market stolons. 
  • Thanks to increased profits, multipliers have experienced substantial lifestyle improvements, including better nutrition, education, and housing for participating farmers. 
  • The initiative has led to advanced booking of stolons by customers, highlighting high demand and trust in the quality of the planting material. 

“This village has become a hub of good quality mint planting material. People come from far away—out of district, out of block, even out of state—to get good planting material.” 

This declaration from a farmer in the village of Fatehpurwa in the Masauli Cluster lays out the situation for farmers since they became engaged in Tanager’s multiplication program.  

But it wasn’t always like this. 

In this corner of India’s state of Uttar Pradesh, field sizes are small, and farmers prefer to reserve their limited land for growing crops that bring in income. So at the start of mint season every January, they look to purchase mint planting material (stolons). 

Despite the demand, those serving this customer base, mint multipliers, hadn’t experienced much success. They used traditional techniques for multiplication, which led to plants that produced lower yields. Because they lacked access to a quality mother plant from which to multiply their stolons, they often produced and sold mixed-varietal, lesser-quality planting material. As a result, they weren’t able to sell all of their stolons. Dinesh, a multiplier from the village of Lakauda in the Fatehpur Cluster, said he would try to sell his mint stolons at the mandi, the local wholesale market. He’d regularly return home with significant stock remaining at the beginning of the mint season. 

Why and how the situation changed—for Dinesh, the multipliers in the Masauli cluster, and hundreds of other farmers—has its roots in the Shubh Mint project. 

Expand Access Through Multipliers

One of the aims of Shubh Mint is to maximize farmers’ ability to earn income from growing mint in Uttar Pradesh. The project, funded by Mars Wrigley, is implemented by Tanager. 

Early research trials conducted by Tanager’s Shubh Mint suggested that mint fields planted with quality planting material returned significantly higher yields of mint oil—therefore providing more income for farmers. 

“Farmers were already doing multiplication [before Tanager], but they were mixing varieties, which was creating poor-quality planting material,” explains Abhijeet Sharma, project director for the Shubh Mint program. “Good stolons make the biggest difference for mint oil yields, and you can multiply it cheaply. You just have to do it properly.” 

The key, then, was to get quality mother planting material to multipliers, who could then propagate the good stuff to sell. 

“If you provide quality mother planting material to these 600 multipliers, you provide for 50,000 acres of mint under improved planting material,” Sharma says. 

The project first worked with the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), a government body that breeds mint varieties, to multiply the quality planting material and make it affordable and accessible to more mint farmers. From 2018, Tanager through Shubh Mint worked with local farmer producer companies to rent land and multiply stolons for sales to their membership.  

In 2022, the program was expanded to work directly with mint multipliers already working in the area. This expanded program began working with 189 farmers on 55 acres. Farmers opting to join would designate a portion of their land for multiplication. They would, in turn, receive 8 kg of Shubh Mint’s quality mother planting material, year-round technical support from extension officers, and even extra promotions in the community about their material. 

Advanced Booking of Stolons

In 2022, the multiplier program provided enough quality planting material—271,200 kg of stolon—to cover 11,000 acres. Today, Tanager through Shubh Mint is working with 600 multiplier farmers, who for the 2024 mint season were able to produce and distribute 932,728 kg of stolon—enough planting material to cover an estimated 30,000 acres, making this the largest planting material supply chain for mint globally.  

Multipliers working with the Shubh Mint project and using Tanager’s mother mint plant are producing approximately 7,500 kg of mint stolon per acre, compared to non-program multipliers, who produce an average of 5,300 kg of stolon per acre. “We’re harvesting almost double what we used to get per acre because of the quality planting material,” says Dinesh Chandra Verma, a 44-year-old multiplier from Fatehpurwa village. 

The stolons themselves also produce greater yields. Local-market stolons on average produce about 40 to 45 kg of crude mint oil per acre. The quality stolons from the multiplication program, on the other hand, produce an average of 55 to 60 kg of crude mint oil per acre. 

Word has gotten out that these stolons result in significantly greater yields, and Shubh Mint multipliers now enjoy high demand for their product. As Dharmendra Kumar, another multiplier from Fatehpurwa, says, “People are calling in advance to book our mint stolons.” They’re also serving as mint technical advisors to their neighbors and friends, sharing the agricultural expertise from Tanager and fielding troubleshooting calls from customers. 

The increased business and increased incomes have led to lifestyle changes large and small for Tanager Shubh Mint multipliers. Multiple farmers in Fatehpurwa talk of now being able to weather the expenses that arise from family members’ medical emergencies. Ramlutawan, a 76-year-old multiplier from the same village, is funding his grandson’s private school education.  

Manish Kumar Verma, a farmer in the village of Aneya in the Gosaiganj Cluster, began multiplying with Tanager in 2022, devoting 0.0625 acre for stolons. It was a lucrative enough venture that in 2023, he produced stolons on 2 acres and used the profit to fund his sister’s wedding. 

As for Dinesh, the multiplier from the Lakauda village, he observes: “We have seen a drastic change in our eating habits,” noting that his family of 6 is now able to consume more nutritious foods, such as milk, apples, grapes, and oranges.  

He then sweeps his arm in the direction of a large brick house under construction. “I have also invested in a new house,” he says with a proud smile.