NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) has written to states and union territories seeking recommendations on new minor forest produce (MFP) items which should be included in the scheme of minimum support prices. This comes amid the COVID-19 lockdown which has further marginalised forest produce gatherers.
According to the MoTA, tribal people derive 20-40 per cent of their annual income from MFP. The MFP items include wild honey, tamarind, sal leaves, sal seed, mahua seeds, neem seeds, karanj seeds, mahua flowers, tejpatta, and kukum (dry), among others which the tribal communities gather and sell off.
The Centre sought recommendations within one week citing that the outbreak of COVID-19 wich ‘may have an adverse effect on the livelihood of the already marginalised MFP gatherers’.
This letter comes after the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh have recommended on the revision of MSP of MFP items. “As this ministry declares MSP of MFP items for the whole country, it is felt that recommendations from all states/UTs need to be considered before revision of MSPs,” said the letter.
Under the scheme of the mechanism for the marketing of MFP through MSP, the revision of MSPs was carried out by the ministry in 2019 where the support price for 49 MFPs was revised.
“This is a welcome step. However, the peak season for most minor forest produces is between March - June. So, tribal gatherers across the country are already facing challenges in selling their minor forest produce amid the COVID-19 outbreak. This move should have come earlier,” said Odisha-based activist Y Giri Rao.
According to a report by the Tribal Co-operative Marketing Development Federation of India, the government-led procurement of MFP has a number of challenges, including poor monitoring of benefits to tribals, records not being updated, poor tracking of procurement targets, delay in payments to tribal communities and lack of provisions for loans and advances to gatherers.