Incense stick production in Maharashtra set to get a boost

State plans to link self-help groups and ITC to empower farmers and women; investors, experts discuss vast potential in bamboo industry at one-day summit

February 20, 2019 12:58 am | Updated 12:58 am IST - Mumbai

 Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar inaugurates the Bamboo Investment Summit at BSE on Tuesday.

Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar inaugurates the Bamboo Investment Summit at BSE on Tuesday.

The State government plans to take steps to encourage local production of incense sticks, a product used extensively in India and yet imported in large quantities.

State Minister for Finance and Forest Sudhir Mungantiwar made the announcement at the Bamboo Investment Summit organised at the Bombay Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Representatives from the private sector, including the Indian Tobacco Company (ITC), which is collaborating on the effort, were also present at the event.

The summit, organised by the State government, the BSE and the Indian Federation of Green Energy (IFGE), was inaugurated by Mr. Mungantiwar on Tuesday morning.

“India imports ₹3,500 crore by value and 165,000 tonnes by volume of incense sticks from China, and even tiny items like toothpicks are imported from Korea. However, we have now taken steps to link women self-help groups with ITC to produce the Mangaldeep brand of incense sticks, which will economically empower farmers as well as women,” Mr. Mungantiwar said.

R. Ravi of ITC said, “While we are the largest consumers of incense sticks, we don’t manufacture them. We can save around $40 million per annum by producing them. Currently, there are investment opportunities in machinery for bamboo incense stick production. ITC has also recently signed an MoU with the Bamboo Research and Training Centre, Maharashtra, for producing incense sticks and thereby also providing livelihood to rural women.”

Industry potential

The summit also had a panel discussion on investment opportunities in the large-scale bamboo industry dealing in products such as bio-CNG, biodiesel, ethanol, textile and paper. Dr. A.K. Bhattacharya, head, green highways division, National Highways Authority of India, shared his vision of developing 100% bamboo-based ecotourism along national highways. Dr. N. Barathi from Growmore Biotech Limited recommended high-density plantation of bamboo. “It is one of the fastest growing plant on earth and we are not converting it into a commercial opportunity. There is an utmost need of raw material and bamboo has the potential to replace coal. The returns on investment in the bamboo sector will be higher as there is no tax on agricultural income in India,” Dr. Barathi said.

The second session focused on investment opportunities in medium-scale bamboo industries such as handicraft, cottage industry, furniture and floorings. Pasha Patel, former Member of Legislative Council from the Bharatiya Janata Party, called on farmers to take initiative to cultivate bamboo. “I have started cultivation in Latur and would encourage all fellow farmers to do so, as there is great future in this sector,” he said.

The final session dealt with the investors’ point of view. Angel investor Shashank Randevan said, “I see a lot of opportunity in retail technology. Bamboo is capable of producing fabric that is stronger than cotton. At a time when we are constantly looking for innovations in business to business model, bamboo will play a major role. This sector has elements of agriculture and agritech.”

He also offered suggestions to the government in keeping with his views. “Since SIDBI (Small Industries and Development bank of India) has already been giving money to private investors, they should set up a separate fund backed by SIDBI so that investors can come forward to invest, even though the returns take years. Secondly, the government should provide 100% tax exemption to investors in such potential industries,” he said.

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