India's poorest, the tribals, can now expect minimum support price from the government for minor forest produce (MFP) — including produce.
The Centre is expected to announce minimum support prices for 12 types of MFP for state governments to follow, and a mechanism to ensure that even non-profitable forest produce is procured. These are bamboo (declared MFP recently), tendu leaves, mahua flower and seed, sal leaf and seed, chironjee, wild honey, tamarind, myrobalan, gums and gum karanj.The decision was taken at a meeting called by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently. "The consensus view has emerged," environment minister Jairam Ramesh said, in a letter to Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia this week.
Ramesh said it was decided the state governments would have to give higher MSP than the Centre. A committee headed by T Haque of the panchayati raj ministry will decide on the MSP for each MFP that could range between R500 and R2,000 per kg.
"Tribals in the North-East get five to ten paisa for a tendu leaf," said Nandan Saxena, who made a documentary on exploitation of tribals resulting from unfair price for MFP. Over 10 crore people are said to be dependent on MFP for livelihood, but they have to sell their collection at throwaway prices.
The government has also decided that monopoly of any agency in procuring MFP, including state agencies, will be removed. “A level-playing field for all will have to be provided to ensure tribals get maximum money for forest products they collect,” a plan panel official said.
The Centre will also tell states they will have to improve the marketing and distribution network. Another decision taken was that gram sabhas should be involved in management and regeneration of MFP.
"Forest regeneration plans should be prepared in consultation with the gram sabhas," Ramesh said, adding the issue has already been discussed with member secretary Planning Commission Sudha Pillai.
The government will also be preparing a plan to set up MFP processing units at the local levels with the help of gram sabhas.