The government will soon set up a mechanism for declaring minimum support price (MSP) for minor forest produce, a source of livelihood for millions of poor living in and around Indian forests.
A committee headed by agriculture economist T Haque had recommended setting up of a commission to declare MSP for 12 types of minor forest produce including bamboo, tendu leaves and mahua flower.
“The committee has recommended setup up of a commission having experts from forestry and economics to work out MSP for forest products on annual basis,” said a senior government official, who was member of the committee but was not willing to be quoted.
Initially, the committee wanted the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices to determine MSP for minor forest produce but the idea was dropped after objections. It was felt that while there is huge input cost in agriculture there was no such cost in case of forest produce, which is more labour intensive.
In its final report, Hadque committee has also said the work of procuring minor forest produce should be done by state forest corporations while the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation can play a supervisory role.
The government had earlier given in principle agreement to MSP at a meeting called by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a few months ago. The mechanism was to be decided by the Haque committee, which has now submitted its report.
“A formal approval is expected soon,” said a senior government official.
“Tribals in north east get five to ten paisa for a tendu leave,” 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 minor forest produce for livelihood but they have to sell their collection as throwaway price in absence of any pro-people government regulation.
The committee has also recommended amendment of Indian Forest Act, 1927 to declare bamboo as grass, instead of timber. Until that is done, declaring bamboo as minor forest produce will be difficult even though it is categorised as minor forest produce in the Forest Rights Act.
The committee has also recommended that monopoly of the government agencies should end in procuring minor forest produce. “A level playing field for all will have to be provided to ensure tribals get maximum money for forest products they collect,” the official said.
“Forest regeneration plans should be prepared in consultation with the gram sabhas,” former environment minister Jairam Ramesh had earlier said. The government will also be preparing a plan to set up MFP processing units at the local levels with the help of gram sabhas.