Asafoetida (Heeng) cultivation to be introduced in India

  • IASbaba
  • October 21, 2020
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Asafoetida (Heeng) cultivation to be introduced in India

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Economy; Agriculture

In news

  • CSIR constituent laboratory, Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur, recently made history by introducing asafoetida (Heeng) cultivation in Indian Himalayan region.

Key takeaways

  • The cultivation shall take place in the Lahaul valley in Himachal Pradesh.
  • India imports about 1200 tonnes of raw asafoetida annually from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan and spends approximately 100 million USD per year.
  • CSIR-IHBT has now introduced six accessions of seeds from Iran through ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBPGR), New Delhi.
  • In the past thirty years, this has been the first attempt for introduction of asafoetida (Ferula assa-foetida) seeds in the country.
  • However, the challenge for the scientists is that heeng seeds remain under a prolonged dormant phase and the rate of seed germination is just 1%.

Important value additions


  • It is a herbaceous plant of the umbelliferae family. 
  • It is a perennial plant.
  • Its oleo gum resin is extracted from its thick roots and rhizome.
  • The plant stores most of its nutrients inside its deep fleshy roots.
  • It is endemic to Iran and Afghanistan, which are also the main global suppliers of it. 
  • It thrives in dry and cold desert conditions. 
  • It can tolerate temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees. It can also survive in temperatures up to minus 4 degrees.
  • Ideal growth conditions: Sandy soil, very little moisture and annual rainfall of not more than 200mm 
  • However, during extreme weather, the plant can get dormant.
  • It has medicinal properties, including relief for digestive, spasmodic and stomach disorders, asthma and bronchitis.
  • The herb is used to help with painful or excessive bleeding during menstruation and premature labour.

Do you know?

  • Asafoetida is one of the top condiments and is a high value spice crop in India.
  • Although there are about 130 species of Ferula found in the world, only Ferula assa-foetida is the economically important species used for the production of asafoetida.
  • In India, Ferula assa-foetida is not found, but other species Ferula jaeschkeana is reported from the western Himalaya (Chamba, HP), and Ferula narthex from Kashmir and Ladakh

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