Union science and technology minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has brought forth the need for traditional medicinal plants and urged pharma companies to explore the possibility of business ventures in aroma and medicinal plants.
Since India has the potential of becoming the world’s largest supplier of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAP) given her rich tradition in the field, the minister said rapid strides are now underway in research and development of credible products.
In his visit to the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) in Purara, Uttarakhand last evening, Dr Harsh Vardhan sought to promote agri-entrepreneurship in medicinal and aromatic plant cultivation because the demand for these herbs, roots, leaves, etc. is growing globally.
“India is already a big player in the international market for medicinal and aromatic plants. The government is giving technological support through enhanced R&D. The future is very bright,” he said.
The Minister said that the growing global popularity of alternative and traditional medicine, backed up by a surge in the number of practitioners, has created a huge market for the MAP sector. The domestic AYUSH market is estimated to have volumes of Rs 500 crore and exports are in the region of Rs 200 crore.
The improved varieties of medicinal and aromatic plants developed by CSIR-CIMAP occupy an estimated area of 300,000 hectares producing different essential oils and medicinal herbs valued at about Rs 2500 crores annually and creating employment opportunities to the tune of about 6 crores man days every year.
“This is only a fraction of the potential. The government’s commitment to give AYUSH a pride of place in the mainstream of Indian healthcare is bound to have spinoffs for those involved with MAP. My job will be to ensure adequate R&D backup and I am confident that our scientists are making a good job of it,” he remarked.
CIMAP is part of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), founded in 1959 with its own campus spread over 51 acres with various laboratories, plant conservatories and an experimental farm.
CSIR-CIMAP has four research centres – at Bangalore (Karnataka), Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh), Pantnagar and Purara (Uttarakhand) based on different agro climatic zones, and the centre facilitate multi-location field trials and research together with demonstration of agro-technology of medicinal and aromatic plants.
The Minister inaugurated the building of a new laboratory (Ocimum ChemBio), released a high-essential oil and methyl chavicol-rich variety of Ocimum basilicum, suitable for cultivation under rain-fed conditions. He has also released two new monographs — one each on improved varieties of MAP and herbal formulations developed by CSIR-CIMAP.
The minister also said that the main thrust needs to be given by the user industries, especially, pharma, perfumery and cosmetic manufacturers to procure the raw material from cultivated source so that wild flora of precious plant wealth is not depleted, and the wide gene-pool available in nature could be exploited by scientists in developing superior varieties having potential to yield comparatively higher quantities of required plant parts or chemical constituents of commercial interest.
The Minister noted that the North-East region has great potential in MAP development, if agri-entrepreneurship is developed there, making the region rich and provide more jobs to local people.
He has also urged the scientists to develop plant varieties which can be grown in adverse climatic conditions ranging from flood-affected to drought-prone areas.