The cultivation of Mentha has been really a boon for farmers of Nepal. Especially, it mitigates the human-animal conflict in areas close to forest. Animals like Elephant, wild boar do not like the smell of this herb; therefore, they stay away from the fields. As a result, the crops are safe from damage and farmers can reap the advantages.
At present, Nepal produces approx 20 MT of mint oil (Mentha arvensis). There is no official system to record this production data. This quantity is estimated by private sector with their per annum purchases. Like all other medicinal plants product, the market price of mentha is also very volatile. It keeps changing throughout the year. Since, the yield of this product is high and has massive demand in market. Fortunately, it has successfully fetched good benefits for those farmers who are veteran and know how to farm this crop well.
There are two ways of Mentha farming. One is vegetative method through stolons and runner whereas the other is from root (also called sucker). The farming season starts from mid January goes till mid April in Nepal. This is three months crop. Farmers start distillation of Mentha from mid of May which continues till June. The major markets of this oil are Nepalgunj and Kathmandu. Additionally, the producers living close to India border also sell their produce in India. These producers compare the returns of both countries and sell the oil wherever the prices are better. They are more opportunistic.
Global Demand of Mentha
Nepal is surrounded by two major producers of Mint oil worldwide. India is largest of producer of this oil followed by China (9%), Brazil (7%) and the USA (4%) (Economic Times, 2017).
The Global essential Oil market is assumed to reach USD 11.19 Billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 8.83% from 2017 to 2022 (markets.businessinsider.com, 2017).
Hurdles of Mentha Oil
Irrespective of the advantages served to farmers, the Mentha oil in Nepal still has many challenges to conquer. This has a spectrum which involves every stakeholder of the value chain. The nature of problem varies for farmers and traders both.
- Nepal still does not have any agency working on research and development of Mentha varieties.
- The suckers used for cultivation by farmers are either grown by themselves or they buy from India. People, who produce their own seedlings, plant it and harvest the grass for oil distillation. Again, make nursery from same and use the roots for next year. This often leads to low oil yield or degrade the quality.
- There are human-wildlife conflict areas where farmers are very keen to farm this crop. But they fail because it needs a lot of irrigation in the beginning and the folks do not have such facilities.
- Mentha is very prone to catching pests due to which farmers need to be very vigilant. They need thorough technical guidance on how to combat such problems.
- Pest problem of this crop is the major reason why organic cultivation of it is not feasible in the region.
- Mentha is commodity of volume not value. It means if somebody wants to reap profit from the product, he needs to trade in huge volume. On the contrary, the total production of approx 20MT in the country is peanuts for the industry worldwide.
- With low production and indefinite lot of its stock, the traders of Nepal lack competitive edge in international market when it comes to this product.
- Many farmers involved in small production bear high cost which again makes the oil expensive as compared to other markets.
- Tedious legislative procedure also make difficult to deal in this product in the country.
(2017, 07 24). Retrieved from markets.businessinsider.com: https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/global-essential-oils-market-2017-2022-by-product-type-method-of-extraction-application-1002199137
Economic Times. (2017, 08 14). Retrieved from Economictimes.indiatimes.com: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/markets/commodities/views/global-demand-lifts-mentha-oil-prices-outlook-bullish/articleshow/60062122.cms