Experts call on government agencies to promote medicinal plant cultivation in state

Published: 14th June 2018 03:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th June 2018 03:28 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:With medicinal plant cultivation yet to catch the imagination of farmers and entrepreneurs in the state, manufacturers of Ayurvedic medicine are finding it tough to source even the local varieties like kurunthotti (common wireweed) or koduveli (Indian leadwort).

It is high time that agencies such as State Medicinal Plant Board, Kerala (SMPB) or State Horticulture Mission start promoting the schemes being announced by National AYUSH Mission (NAM) and National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB), say experts.

“We are not self-sufficient in medicinal plants cultivation. We mainly depend on Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for raw materials. At the same time we can’t overlook the fact that some medicinal plants only grow in specific geographical region and ecosystem,” said K R Viswambharan, chairman, Oushadhi, the largest producer of Ayurvedic medicines in the public sector in India.Due to the low production in the state, Oushadhi has no option but to turn to other states for the raw materials.

“On an average, Oushadhi spends `40 crore a year to source raw materials. This could be brought down if we attain self-sufficiency in home-grown medicinal plants,” added Viswambharan.Medicinal plants must be promoted as a major revenue earning crop to boost their cultivation in the state, said K Radhakrishnan, chief executive officer (CEO), SMPB. He added that a deal will also have to be struck with national pharmaceutical companies so that those who embark on medicinal plant cultivation don’t suffer losses.
“SMPB had initiated ‘Grameenam’ project at the state-level to achieve that objective. We have initiated medicinal plant cultivation via societies by signing a memorandum of understanding with some pharmaceutical companies operating from the state,” he added.

The ‘Grameenam’ project is already in operation at Mattathur grama panchayat in Thrissur, and it will be extended to Peringamala and Mokeri grama panchayath in Thiruvananthapuram and Kannur districts, respectively added Radhakrishnan.

Meanwhile, Dr Rejith Anand, a member of the Central Council of Indian Medicine, said issues like land constraints and high labour costs couldn’t be overlooked while promoting medicinal plant cultivation.
“Why couldn’t we think about linking medicinal plant cultivation with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act?” he wondered.

“What we need most is a comprehensive strategy that will address aspects like capacity building, provision of value addition facilities and structuring an interface between the producers and industry,” he added.

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