India can no longer afford to rely on wild collection of MPs from the forests. A change in our mind-set from Collection to Cultivation is therefore essential and must be ensured in our funding structure in this sector. It has also reduced and underestimated India’s role in global herbal business as supplier of raw herbs rather than supplier of good quality finished herbal solutions/medicines. To ensure regular and uninterrupted supply of raw material to industry, good quality well characterized MPs that are in high demand should be cultivated at farmers’ fields. It is likely that till the infrastructure of MPs gets stabilized in the country, individual farmers may feel unsecured to take up their cultivation. Hence to begin with Contract/Cooperative/Cluster Farming can be a good solution.
Imparting a legitimate status to cultivated MPs’ as ‘Agriculture Crop Produce” will have a salutary effect in this direction. Since organized cultivation requires specific cultural practices and agronomical requirements of a region, a lot of crop specific R&D in-puts are required. A group of farmers can easily execute Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and implement other developed standards such as proper agro-techniques, post harvesting methods, protected use of fertilizers etc. Simultaneously, small scale primary processing units too have to be established for value addition such as cleaning, drying, grading, packing etc. Thus, cultivation and processing should go together. MPs which are being imported in large quantity and have constant demand domestically can be promoted for cultivation. Under Contract/Cooperative/Cluster form of cultivation for Organic Farming can be easily adopted. Farmers can be trained easily under this scheme and it is easy to monitor. Major processing steps involve harvesting, storing, cleaning, grading, drying and proper packaging at the farm level and it may reduce the losses to a great extent; a safe herbal chain can also be developed as it travels forward. Today India is looking at hygienic and organic herbals free from heavy metals, toxins and chemical contaminants. They need to be treated like tea gardens and grown in large areas as a commercial venture. The variety of herbals that we grow may mean a lot at the globe level and it is important to select the best business variety suited to India’s climate as well as to agricultural market.