For those of us who tend to dismiss off herbs and their medicinal value, here is a startling revelation. The present value of plant based drugs is a staggering $250 billion world wide and is still growing. In India alone, the value is estimated to be Rs.5,000 crore, out of which Rs.1,200 crore are being earned from exports alone. The popular Herbal tea is alone worth $10 billion.

But the lucrative global market for plant based drugs is in the hands of developed countries, while developing countries like India have been sourcing the raw material, observed K.P Sastry, scientist from the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), during his key-note address at a seminar on “Medicinal plants-Cultivation and Conservation Post-Harvest Technologies” held at the Hindu College here on Wednesday.

India, Dr. Sastry, said produces 50,000 tonnes of raw material of herbal drugs, 80 per cent of which is cultivated in forest lands by ingenious tribals, who own small bits of land. They cultivate without using modern farming methods and with little or no help from the state governments in the form of input subsidies. But the situation is changing.

According to Dr. Sastry, a sample survey has been undertaken by CIMAP in 23 districts of the state, which resulted in preparation of data bases of 24 medicinal plants in various stages of cultivation in about 30,000 acres in the state.

The survey resulted in a wealth of information on the cultivation of ‘Aswagandha' and ‘long pepper grass', the two most common aromatic plants.

The survey helped dispel some myths. “Cultivation of medicinal plants is less risky in terms of incidence of pests, diseases, price fluctuations and has potential returns. Medicinal crops can be stored for a long time,” Dr. Sastry rounded off.

Chief Conservator of Forests, Anoop Singh, called for a networking of various stakeholders in realizing the vast potential of medicinal herbs. He assured that the Department of Forests would seek expertise of CIMAP in cultivation of herbal plants through `Vana Samrakshana Samitis.' Earlier, Vice-Chancellor of Acharya Nagarjuna University Y.R Haragopal Reddy unveiled the souvenir.

Hindu College committee president, S.V.S Somayaji, secretary and correspondent MVRK Mutyalu, principal S. Ravi Babu and director and organising secretary V. Jaya were present.

More In: Vijayawada