The New Indian Express
Monday, June 20, 2005

Model farm for herbs in Kalrayan Hills

The Center has come forward to start a model farm for herbs in Kalrayan Hills, near Attur, said R Baskaran, Commissioner, Tamil Nadu Horticulture Department.

Speaking at a convention of contract farmers at Attur on Sunday, Baskaran appealed to the State Government to establish another farm for herbs at Attur. He pointed out that there were 34 species of herbs with medicinal value, suited for cultivation in Tamil Nadu. However, most of the herbs were confined to the forests.

“These herbs should be brought to the knowledge of farmers and their cultivation should be expanded,” he said.

He said lot of research was carried out by the state Horticulture Department, with particular focus on post-harvest management. As part of the ongoing research, the department had released a book with details of the soil nature and climatic conditions in every district.

There are 230 agro based industries in the state, while the number of industries based on herbs was 30. Such industries should increase to transform herbs into goods, he said. Apart from the state government, the National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) and National Horticultural Board had also come forward to offer subsidy for herb-based industries, he noted.

Baskaran also sought for a review meeting of entrepreneurs in herb-based industries to identify the needs of farmers.

He pointed out that farmers, earlier, were satisfied with a return that could just meet the production costs. But now they expect “an appreciable price for their products,” he said.

Tamil Nadu Agricultural University Vice Chancellor C Ramasamy noted that the demand for medicinal herbs had increased worldwide.

Farmers here should make optimum use of the situation to market their products, he said. He pointed out that they should identify specific market needs and cater to them.

“ Lot of research is carried out at the TNAU on how to extract chemical components from these herbs,” he said. TNAU has also introduced a PG course in Plantation and a distance education programme – both focusing on herbal plants.

The meet was organized by Sami Labs, a Bangalore-based firm, which has signed a contract with Attur farmers, who cultivate Coleus Forskohlii, a herb.