The New Indian Express
Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sami Labs bets big on Coleus in Salem

Bangalore-based Sami Labs Ltd is honoring its farming community engaged in the cultivation of Coleus, a medicinal plant, on June 18 at Aattur near Salem . More than 5,000 farmers will be honored from the district of Salem and adjoining districts as well.

As part of this programme, Sami Labs will compliment the farmers with 25 motorbikes and 300 sovereigns. More than 5,000 farmers are currently cultivating Coleus in Salem and 14 adjoining districts. Sami Labs is extending them support by facilitating bank loan, crop and insurance and a buy back arrangement.

The company has invested close to Rs 10 crore in Salem and adjoining districts for Coleus cultivation. For this fiscal, Sami will expand its Coleus cultivation to 15-20,000 acres of land and will cover regions in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab , Maharashtra and Chattisgarh. The investment for cultivation will be to the tune of Rs 50-6- crore, said company officials.

Sami has also evolved a special model of cultivation for the farmers in and around Salem . Initiated seven years ago with a handful of farmers, today, the Sami Model of Coleus Cultivation has grown into a co-operative venture with more than 5,000 farmers involved directly and thousands of farm labourers indirectly in Salem and adjoining districts of Tamil Nadu. The Salem project has been done in association with MGP Herbals Care Pvt Ltd.

Coleus forskohlii has been known to be useful for lowering blood pressure as well as ocular pressure in glaucoma. In the 90s, Sami Labs and its associate company in the US, Sabinsa Corporation discovered another property of this plant. It was found that taken internally forkolin, the main ingredient of the plant, broke down fat in the body without affecting other tissues.

Coleus forskohlii, is a six month crop, which is grown only in the rainy season and contains forskolin only in roots. It is multiplied by stem cuttings and hence the expenses on replanting are high. Sami Labs scientists are now trying to develop a variety, which will contain forskolin in its stems in addition to roots so that the plant becomes a perennial crop where only stems will be harvested, and leftover roots will sprout again to give a new crop of stems for next season.