The cultivators are offered a host of services, like supply of planting materials at concessional rate and technical support.

R.Y. Narayanan

Coimbatore, June 17

WHILE contract farming of cotton is becoming popular among farmers in Tamil Nadu, a major effort to cultivate medicinal herbal plants such as coleus, turmeric, and red clover through contract farming is under way.

What has instilled confidence in the minds of the farmers to take up the cultivation of Coleus forskohlii is the direct involvement of Sami Labs Ltd, a Rs 259-crore company involved in the manufacture of products based on medicinal plants, fine chemicals, and spice extracts.

It is an essential raw material for the manufacture of medicine used in weight management.

The company, which has seen Coleus being cultivated over an area of about 9,000 acres in and around Salem, expects the cultivation to extend to 15,000-20,000 acres this year.

Seeing the beneficial impact of contract farming of herbal plants for the farming community, the Andhra Pradesh Government has invited Sami Labs for talks. According to Dr Muhammed Majeed, Managing Director, Sami Labs, though Coleus forskohlii (known as ban tulsi in Hindi and marundhu koorkankizhangu in Tamil) was cultivated in many parts of India, the major thrust on its cultivation had come in the past four or five years.

The company has turned its focus on Salem district for growing Coleus for which it has entered into a buyback agreement with the farmers.

The cultivators are offered a host of services, like supply of planting materials at concessional rate and technical support.

United India Insurance Company is involved in providing crop insurance and SBI has been roped in to provide financial assistance for cultivation.

As of now, Coleus also being cultivated on 1,000 acres in Karnataka, 5,000 acres in Andhra Pradesh, and 250 acres in Kerala.

He expects to extend cultivation over 3,000-4,000 acres in Maharashtra. In Chhattisgarh, an agreement has been reached with the medicinal plant board to grow Coleus on about 10,000 acres.

Dr Majeed said that Sami Labs would also be expanding area of cultivation of turmeric in a big way since it is used for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes.

The company offers an assured purchase price for turmeric.

Turmeric has powerful anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory material and is the "most powerful skin lightening product ever known to mankind."

The company has a US patent for a turmeric-based product.

Last year, Sami Labs invested about Rs 10 crore in Salem and nearby districts for cultivation of Coleus.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 18, 2005)
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