ROURKELA: Tribal collectors of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are getting a raw deal in Sundargarh district.
With the State Government not ensuring minimum support price for NTFPs, they are forced to resort to distress sale. Financial constraints of authorised Primary Procurement Agencies (PPA), involvement of middlemen and lack of direct market access for tribals are also some reasons behind distress sale. The Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation of Odisha Ltd (TDCCOL) is able to buy only a small fraction.
The Central Government had launched a welfare scheme to ensure MSP to primary gatherers through TDCCOL. Sundargarh being a tribal-dominated district implemented the scheme, which started from July, 2014. Accordingly, TDCCOL announced MSPs for 10 items including Chironjee pod with seed, Karanj seed, Mohua seed, Sal seed, Harida, tamarind, forest honey and two varieties of Lac at Rs 100, Rs 21, Rs 22, Rs 10, Rs 11, Rs 22, Rs 132 and Rs 210 to Rs 290 respectively per kg.
In Balishankara block, tribals are selling tamarind (without seeds) at Rs 15 to Rs 20 per kg against the MSP (with seeds) of Rs 22. Similarly, the MSP of Chironjee pod with seed is Rs 100, which should have been above Rs 150 per kg.
According to TDCCOL, PPAs have been formed in all 260 gram panchayats (GPs) comprising local SHGs.
Centre for Integrated Rural & Tribal Development (CIRTD) secretary, Suru Mishra said the PPAs are supposed to invest money and buy from primary gatherers, but in a majority of cases, the PPAs lack funds. He said mere two percent commission for procurement is also a discouragement for PPAs and middlemen are easily able to exploit the poor tribal gatherers. To make things worse, there is no clarity on sale, regulation and MSP of the forest products.
Sundargarh District Panchayat Officer, Guruva Singh said there are 69 items listed as NTFPs and 17 Panchayat Samitis in 17 blocks of the district fix the MSPs as price of one product may vary in different blocks. On the other hand, Sundargarh branch manager of TDCCOL, RK Jena said procurement of NTFPs has been smooth so far and they are immediately reimbursing payments to PPAs.