The promise of a bumper yield of ippa or mahua (Madhuca longifolia) flowers this season will certainly result in a windfall but, for middlemen and traders. Tribal people in Adilabad will remain an exploited lot as even the presence of the Girijan Cooperative Corporation (GCC) in marketing this precious non timber forest produce (NTFP) is of no help to them.
Collection of mahua flowers should logically bring improved incomes to tribal households as the yield is expected to be a fabulous 5,000 quintals from the estimated 2.5 lakh trees existing in the agency area. Each of the 60,000 aboriginal tribe families owns at least five ippa trees, which will yield about 2 quintals of the flower on an average during April accruing an income of Rs. 7,000 at its current price.
The tribal people are ignorant about the purchase operations launched by the GCC but hardly rue the fact. ‘We are selling it to private purchasers for a maximum price of Rs. 700 per quintal which is the same as offered by the GCC,’ says Sidam Chandu of Sungapur Gondguda in Narnoor mandal, while comparing business with the private purchasers and the GCC.
At level two of the activity, the private trader, usually a kirana shop owner, sells mahua flowers at Rs. 35 a kilo to local bootleggers and for slightly lesser price to bulk purchasers from other States. Used mainly in manufacture of the heady ippa sara liquor, the bootleggers also make a good profit by selling the 2 litres of the illicitly distilled liquor for Rs. 200.
In the final analysis, a tribal family will make much less at Rs. 700 per quintal than the Rs. 3,500 which a middleman earns and the Rs. 7,000 per quintal that traders from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan make. They sell the NTFP in open market after Dasara when the demand goes up
“We have urged for an increase in the purchase price of mahua flowers from Rs. 700 to at least Rs. 1,000 per quintal,” reveals the GCC District Manager at Utnoor L.K. Ramanandam. "The hike in purchase, if at all it materialises, will still fall short of what can be termed as a remunerative price", observers Udhe Raju of Lokari (K) village in Narnoor.