KOCHI: The bright green leaves of moringa oleifera (drumstick tree) are a rich source of vitamin A and C that help in strengthening bones. Interestingly, 80 per cent of the production of moringa leaves happens in India, fetching crores of foreign exchange for the country.
Growing at a rate of 26-30 per cent annually, the export of moringa leaves is a big business in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Odisha. The major countries which import moringa leaves are China, the US, Germany, Canada, South Korea and European countries.
India exported moringa leaves worth Rs 14.6 crore in 2015, compared to Rs 11.61 crore in 2014. The export of these leaves was worth Rs 2.5 crore in January and February this year. The latest trend in the moringa market is the shift towards organic leaves and usage of solar driers.
“The export market has been increasing at the rate of over 30 per cent. Moringa leaves have applications in neutraceutical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Extracting companies are using the raw material in a big way,” said S MuthuRaj of SVM Exports, a Tamil Nadu-based company which exports such leaves to China, the US, UK and African countries.
Apart from leaves, moringa seeds and oil also have huge market overseas. The oil from the plant can be used as a bio-fuel.
Originated from India, moringa trees are now found in Ghana, the Philippines, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Niger, Mozambique, Cambodia and Haiti. Today, the moringa market globally is estimated at more than Rs 27,000 crore, which is expected to cross Rs 47, 250 crore by 2020, growing at a rate of nine per cent per year.
In India, moringa tress are grown in about one lakh acre. It is grown in about 5,000 acres in Theni district in Tamil Nadu alone. Currently, the price of moringa leaves is at Rs 70-80 per kg and that of moringa seed is Rs 500/kg.
“Countries like the US and European Union have developed a standard for regulating moringa products. Hence, it is a huge task to dry the leaves in a controlled manner. Usually these leaves are dried in the sunlight. But there are chances of contamination and dark colour. The moringa leaves exporting companies in Tamil Nadu are now using the solar drying method to overcome the hurdle,” said K N Iyer, Managing Director, Kraftwork Solar Private Limited.
“Solar drying is superior to open drying because of the better quality, colour and hygiene. These leaves are now in high demand in the US market,” he added.