Agri Business

Rubber Board bets big on intercropping of medicinal plants in plantations

V.Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on October 11, 2021

(File photo) Vetiver, or ramacham in local parlance, is an aromatic medicinal plant cultivated in Kerala’s coastal regions.

Kottackal Arya Vaidya Sala signs MoU with Rubber Producers Societies for cultivating medicinal plants

Intercropping of medicinal plants in rubber plantations has gained momentum with leading ayurvedic medicine manufacturing companies coming forward to take up the project by supplying necessary planting materials.

Kottackal Arya Vaidya Sala (KAVS), a leading ayurvedic medicine manufacturer in Kerala, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Rubber Producers Societies for cultivating medicinal plants through a buy-back arrangement.

M.D.Jessy, Director (Research), Rubber Research Institute of India, told BusinessLine that several ayurvedic drug manufacturers have approached for promoting medicinal plant cultivation in plantations, but the Rubber Board insists to take up the project only with a buy-back arrangement. The absence of an assured market for medicinal plants unlike that of food crops is a deterrent for farmers in taking up medicinal cultivation.

“We have just started the project on a limited scale with KAVS, which will provide the list of plants, supply materials and strictly monitor the farming”, she said. Through the project, the Board aims to improve the livelihood security of rubber growers and ensure continued supply of medicinal plants to the needs of the ayurvedic industry.

Endangered medicinal plants

Rubber Research Institute of India has also initiated a programme to generate quality planting materials of endangered medicinal plants by biotechnological tools for intercropping in rubber plantations.

She pointed out that there is a growing demand for medicinal plants and the scarcity of quality raw materials is a constraint for the growth of the ayurvedic industry. Many of the medicinal plants grow under wild conditions in forests and their indiscriminate exploitation has led to a shortage in its availability. Land is scarce in Kerala for exclusive cultivation of medicinal plants and effective utilization of land by crop diversification is the only viable way to increase production of medicinal plants, Jessy said.

D.Ramanathan, general secretary, Ayurvedic Medicine Manufacturers Organisation of India, said farming of medicinal plants in rubber plantations would be a good business proposition considering the size of the total raw material market for ayurvedic industry in Kerala which is estimated at ₹ 1,400 crore and the industry is depending 70 per cent of the raw materials from outside the State. Moreover, the pandemic induced lockdown has hit the movement of these consignments from outside.

The cultivation of medicinal plantations as inter-cropping would be ideal for shrubs and not for plants. However, the need of the hour is to enter into a business arrangement with farmers, Rubber Board and medicine manufacturers for the benefit of all the stakeholders, he added.

Rubber has a long gestation period of around 7-8 years, when there is no income from the plantations. Sufficient land and light are available in rubber plantations during the initial 3-4 years for cultivation of annual or short-term crops like fruit crops, vegetables, medicinal plants, spices and ornamental plants, which will generate income and improve livelihood security of growers.

RRII has conducted several experiments to evaluate the performance of medicinal plants in mature rubber plantations. Light requiring medicinal plants such as Thechi (Ixora Coccinea), kattarvazha (Aloe Vera), Orila (Desmodium Gangeticum), Moovila (Pserdarthis Viscida), Neela Amari can be cultivated with rubber, she added.

Published on October 11, 2021

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