Monday, August 1, 2005
Arun Ram

Indian farmers help Americans shed flab

Thousands of Indian farmers are toiling in the fields to help obese Americans to get fit back to shape.

And nobody is complaining. By cultivating a herbal plant that goes into the making of a tablet that helps overweight people shed flab, Tamil Nadu farmers too are making fast buck.

Bangalore-based Sami Labs which in association with Sabinsa Corporation hold the patent for ForsLean, a fast selling slimming drug in the US , has involved 5,000 farmers in 15 districts of Tamil Nadu, for the cultivation of Coleus Forskohlii.

An extract called Forskolin from the fibrous roots of this plant is used for making Forslean.

After successfully farming on 10,000 acres in Tamil Nadu, the cultivation will soon spread to Maharashtra , Punjab , Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh, with an investment of Rs 60 crore.

The harvest in Tamil Nadu alone touched 15,000 tonnes last year, and seedlings were recently distributed to farmers across 1,000 acres in Pune.

Farmers in Tamil Nadu have started making annual profits upwards of Rs 25,000 from coleus farming.

Sami Labs' turnover went up from Rs 259 crore to Rs 326 crore last year, with 80 percent of it coming from Forslean.

Says an upbeat Muhammed Majeed, chairman and managing director of Sami Labs, “We provide seedlings and innovative agricultural practices to farmer, besides helping them get loans and insurance cover.”

“A strong buy-back agreement ensures that the farmers gets good returns,” he adds.

Arumugham (39), who has been cultivating coleus in his two acre land in Manjini village in Salem for the last four years, has brought a home for Rs 70,000 against an expenditure of Rs 24,000 in the last one year.

“For a six-month crop which does not need much water or advanced farming techniques, the returns from coleus are very attractive,” he says.

More farmers are coming forward for coleus cultivation, says G Palanivel, MD of MGP Herbals Care which has tied up with Sami Labs for seedling distribution and bank dealing