Maharashtra’s tribal belt, which collects forest produce, is likely to a find big market in the food processing units of corporates and ayurvedic companies. Recently, Ramdev’s Patanjali group committed to buy forest produce from the federation of the joint forest management committees of Maharashtra’s tribal belts. The Maharashtra government will act as the facilitator for the deal. Other companies like Sandu and Dabur will also buy forest produce from here, Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said.
Ramdev’s Patanjali group has assured a monthly turnover of at least Rs 20 crore.
Coca Cola is also likely to sign an MoU with MIDC (Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation) for opening a research centre on hybrid oranges in the state soon. Maharashtra’s Nagpur region is internationally famous for its oranges. The steps are being looked at as a boost to the agricultural and forest produce in the state.
“The company may sign an MoU with the MIDC in February for opening a research centre for the processing of oranges. Coca Cola is working on a hybrid variety of oranges which they have brought from Brazil. They may form a Joint Venture with Noga to take this processing further,” he added.
The Patanjali Group has assured a regular market for products like Indian gooseberry (amla), honey, aloe vera and the giloh plant. In the next few days, the company will provide a list of forest produce that it will consume on a regular basis. It will also give out the fixed minimum assured rates for these products.
“In case of other companies, the demand is significantly low compared to a company like the Patanjali group. In case of a produce like honey, the company’s demand is worth Rs 100 crore per month,” Mungantiwar said.
“This is very encouraging for the tribals who collect forest produce for their livelihood. Right now, they do not find markets for their products. When such companies come ahead to support these tribals, it will be mutually beneficial to both the parties. The state government here will act as a facilitator. We will provide training to the forest management committees and ensure that the tribals get a fixed rate for their produce,” Sudhir Mungantiwar told The Sunday Guardian.
The Opposition has raised an alarm over the state government’s negotiations with the Patanjali group.
“20% of Maharashtra’s land is forest land. It seems to be the BJP’s plan to eat up this land through the Patanjali group. When there are many other prominent ayurvedic companies which are older than Patanjali, how can the state government announce to dedicate 60,000 square kilometre for providing forest produce to the Patanjali group? Is there a provision in our law for such steps to be taken directly by the state government?” NCP leader Nawab Malik asked.
Responding to the allegations, Mungantiwar told The Sunday Guardian that the agreement is to be signed by the Federation of Joint Forest Management Committees.
“Does Malik not know of the stringent Forest Conservation Act? Doeshe not know of the Supreme Court judgements for forest conservation? The state government cannot use even a tiny piece of forest land for itself. How can there be such a lack of information about the law? Here, the tribals are not able to find a market for their produce. We are only trying to facilitate their livelihood,” he said.