Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Firm offers Kerala farmers buyback to grow medicinal plant

Thiruvananthapuram, July 12 : A Bangalore-based drug firm is promoting a proposal under which farmers in Kerala could profitably cultivate a medicinal plant found effective in fat reduction.

Mohummed Majeed, chairman of Sami Labs, a herbal drug major, said Kerala farmers could take up cultivation of the coleus forskohlii plant as his company was offering them a buy-back arrangement.

The extract of this plant has already seen the turnover of Sami Labs skyrocket and the company's profit is expected to touch Rs.500 Crore by the end of the year.

According to Majeed, a Keralite, the plant could be grown anywhere in the state and farmers could approach a bank for loan before cultivation begins.

"The extract taken from the root of this plant accounts for close to 40 percent of my turnover. The extract is now making its way into the Western and Australian markets," Majeed told reporters here late Monday.

The company has already a patented product Forslean, its brand for coleus forskohlii extract, which is an accepted supplement for weight management in the international market.

"We are soon going to expand the cultivation of the plant in around 30,000 acres of land in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. It is already cultivated in 17,500 acres in these states," he said.

The cost of cultivation per acre of the plant is Rs.10,000 and the final returns for the farmer when Sami Labs procures it would be close to Rs.40,000 per acre.

"After we identify the farmer groups who would take up our offer of cultivation, we would give the stems of this plant for planting free of cost. With the buy back arrangement with us, the farmers can approach any commercial bank to finance the cultivation," said Majeed.

Sami Labs closed the last calendar year with a record turnover of Rs.259 Crore. In the first six months of the current calendar year they have touched a turnover of Rs.326 Crore, he said.

Majeed said he was confident that coleus forskohlii could be grown even in homesteads in Kerala because his company had got the approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for phase III trials of Forskolin eye drops for treatment of glaucoma, made from the plant extract.

Sami Labs, which has operations across the globe, is looking for acquisition especially in the European market as part of its expansion plans.

"This would happen soon and we would be investing Rs.100 Crore for this. We are also planning to enter the equity market next year," said Majeed.