The global market for herbal medicine was valued at $657.5 billion in 2020. It is expected to grow to $746.9 billion in 2022. In China, the traditional medicine industry had total revenue of $37.41 billion in 2018, according to an IBISWorld report. In fact, the Healthy China 2030 plan forecasts that the value of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) market may reach $737.9 billion within China and globally by 2030.
The growth of the TCM industry in China is attributed to the immense attention the sector has received in the country. In 1982, the Constitution of China gave full recognition to TCM. Since 2009, there has been continuous support for TCM in health policies. China has focused upon developing quality infrastructure for TCM to co-exist with modern medicine under the same roof.
The NAM scheme
In India, the National Ayush Mission (NAM) was launched in 2014 by the Department of Ayush, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to promote Ayush systems and address the needs of the sector in a comprehensive way. Providing cost-effective services, strengthening educational systems, quality control of drugs and sustainable availability of raw materials are the main objectives of NAM. The industry is projected to reach $23.3 billion in 2022, according to a Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), 2021, report. The Indian herbal medicine market is worth $18.1 billion.
The Indian Ayush sector has grown by 17% between 2014 and 2020. Related segments such as plant derivatives grew by 21%, plant extracts by 14.7%, and herbal plants by 14.3% during the same period.
Under the ‘Medicinal Plants’ component of the NAM scheme (2015–16 to 2020–21), the cultivation of prioritised medicinal plants in identified clusters/zones is being supported. Cultivation of plants on farmer’s land, establishment of nurseries with backward linkages, post-harvest management with forward linkages, and primary processing, marketing, etc., are all covered under the scheme. For the cultivation of plants, subsidies at 30%, 50% and 75% of the cultivation cost for 140 medicinal plants are being provided. So far, approximately 56,396 hectares are under the cultivation of medicinal plants, as per the Ministry of Ayush.
Further, last year Union Ayush Minister Sarbananda Sonowal announced that medicinal plants will be cultivated on 75,000 hectares of land. The Ministry of Finance has also announced a ₹4000-crore package under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan for the promotion of herbal cultivation.
There is no doubt about the potential of the sector and the above measures will surely help. However, the Ayush sector requires a multi-dimensional thrust, ranging from initiatives at the institutional level, massive awareness and promotion of cultivation of medicinal plants by farmers, to trade-related interventions and quality focus measures.
SMPBs to be strengthened
The National Medicinal Plant Board (NMPB) implements the medicinal plant component of Ayush through state bodies—State Medicinal Plant Boards (SMPBs). The organisational structure of SMPBs needs to be strengthened. They should have experts for conservation, cultivation, R&D, herbal garden and nurseries, IEC and marketing and trade of medicinal plants. On the trade front, developing comprehensive databases on Ayush trade, products and raw materials is needed. To date, most ISM (Indian System of Medicine) products, herbal products and medicinal plants products are not identified under specific HS (Harmonised system) codes. Expansion of HS national lines to accommodate various features of traditional medicine and medicinal plant products based on existing requirements is required to provide more comprehensive trade data on Ayurvedic products.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation of the WHO-Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in Jamnagar on April 19, 2022. This will be the first and only global outpost centre for traditional medicine across the world.
NITI Aayog has already constituted a committee and four working groups on integrative medicine, with more than 50 experts across the country, to provide deeper insights and recommendations in the areas of education, research, clinical practice and public health and administration. Considerable progress has been made by the committee for the finalisation of the report. Integration of Ayush systems into mainstream systems will certainly give wider acceptance for traditional systems of the country.
The Ayush industry in India can provide cost-effective healthcare to people across States. It has all the ingredients of success, to co-exist with the modern health systems, as a choice-based system of traditional medicine.
(Dr. Rajiv Kumar is former Vice-Chairman, NITI Aayog. Vaidya Rajeshwari Singh is Research Officer, and Ravindra Pratap Singh is personel secretary to Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog)