AGRICULTURE IS no longer remunerative. No wonder, suicides by farmers are rising. So, instead of offering packages, the government should help farmers sustain themselves, feed the burgeoning populace and tackle malnourishment.
Dr Chandrika Prasad, DG, UPCAR expressed these views at the two-day third National Interactive Meet (NIM), organised by the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), here today. He added that with increasing levels of toxicity in fertilizers, cases of children with physical deformity or mental disorder were growing.
Earlier, Prof V L Chopra, Planning Commission member inaugurated the meet, being attended by 400 delegates comprising scientists, bankers, policy-makers and scholars.
Delivering the welcome address, Dr SPS Khanuja, CIMAP director, urged delegates to turn to cultivation and marketing of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) that would help India fulfil President APJ Abdul Kalam’s Vision 2020 of a healthier and developed nation.
He emphasized on merging business with research. He lamented the misuse of the term herbal and urged all to give a scientific definition to it. He said collection of medicinal and aromatic plants from wild sources should be stopped and cultivation on large-scale should start in order to turn MAPs to medicinal and aromatic crops (MACs).
Dwelling on the ‘Scope and opportunities in MAPs sector — The national and global issues’, Dr S Nagarajan, chairperson, Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Right Authority, said initiating herbal tourism akin to Kerala in Uttaranchal could be beneficial. He asserted that land, water and environment were equally important for cultivation. He said MAPs could help village economy by setting up small-scale industries.
GD Kelker of the Kelker Foundation pointed out how keeping ayurveda secrets under wraps had proved detrimental. He exhorted scientists to pass on scientific know-how to farmers and stressed on removing intermediaries in the peasant-industry relationship. This, he added, would ensure more returns and check suicides.
In his presidential address on ‘Food, income and health for all through strategic agriculture’, Prof Chopra spoke on the ingredients that would help the herbal sector do business.
Talking about bio-resources, he said the country had been divided into 16 agro-climatic zones, was home to eight per cent of the world’s plant species that included 15,000 species of medicinal and aromatic utility.
Chopra informed that the World Health Organisation data had projected that the present herbal market of US $62 billion would jump to US $5 trillion by 2050. He also called for conservation and not just utilization of plants.
Prof Chopra also released a NIM souvenir, four CIMAP products, a plant growth package, two plant varieties, CIMAP newsletter and two farm bulletins. Dr Manju Sharma, chairperson, Research Council, CIMAP, launched Medicinal & Aromatic Plant Society of India (MAPSI).