Cultivation of widely used medicinal plants has slowed down in Tamil Nadu as the government subsidies earmarked for the medicinal plant cultivation were not properly disbursed among all the herb growers in the rural areas, it is learnt.
Due to lack of financial assistance and technical support, the farmers are unable to cultivate many of the medicinal and aromatic plants which are the source for essential raw materials for commonly used Ayurveda and Siddha medicines. This situation forces the market to increase the prices of the available crude drugs day by day.
According to sources close to the plant cultivators, the fund coming to the state horticultural department from the national medicine plant board (NMPB) is disbursed among a few number of farmers, and majority of the cultivators who grow the most needed herbs for Ayurveda and Siddha medicines are being deprived of the benefits. The fund is diverted only for one or two varieties of crops which are not widely used for medicines, they alleged.
A technical expert and Siddha doctor in Chennai, who regularly trains the growers and provides them valuable information about plant cultivation, said the government subsidies are benefiting only the exporters of herbal extracts and medicinal plants. All the funds supposed to be disbursed among herb cultivators is going to one or two societies or associations of plant cultivators. He said a total of 180 raw drugs are required for manufacturing the commonly used Ayurveda and Siddha medicines. But the farmers of these widely used plants are unable to avail the benefit of the government scheme.
This diversion of funds to selected plant growers forces the farmers of other crops to hike the prices of their produce. He said while disbursing the money, the authorities should consider the most important and widely used plants that are required for the manufacture of Ayurveda and Siddha medicines. The money should not be distributed among a few number of farmers, but should be given to all those engage in the plant cultivation and have linkage to Ayurveda and Siddha industry. He alleged that currently the fund is diverted to some extract exporting units only.
In Tirupur alone about 9000 acres of land belonging to over 2000 farmers is used for medicinal plant cultivation. The seeds of ‘Glorisa Superba' produced from the area are exported to countries like Italy where the alkaloid extracted from it is used for the preparation of herbal drugs to fight diseases like cancer, said a plant grower from Tirupur. The cultivation of medicinal plants in Tamil Nadu is the key to meeting the raw material needs of the ayush industry in the state and it offers opportunities for exports of extracts and raw herbs, he said.
When contacted Dr T Thirunarayanan, secretary of the Centre for Traditional Medicines and Research (CTMR), said, the needs of the ISM industry need to be assessed and funds should be provided to farmers to cultivate the plants in different agro climatic regions. He said some widely used medicinal plants like Andrographis paniculata, Mucuna pruriens, Saraca asoca (Roxb.) Withania somnifera, Piper longum, Oldenlandia umbellata, Desmodium gangeticam,Centella asiatica. Piper nigrum. Pseudarthira viscid, Trichosanthes cucumerina L Gmelia arborea, Vettiveria zizonoides and Steriospermum colais are now rarely available in the market.