Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) are plants which possess medicinal properties and are often aromatic in nature. Nepalgunj is one of the hub for MAPs in Nepal. The stakeholders/ traders dedication and involvement define this.
As per record of Jadibuti Association of Nepal (JABAN), there are approximately 100 MAPs species traded from Nepal. The most traded products are Kaulo bokra (Pawan bokra), Soapnut (Reetha) and Bay Leaves (Tejpaat). The MAPs exported from Nepalgunj mostly goes to India.
MAPs are lifeline to many living in extreme remote, rural and urban areas of Nepal. Even though contribution of MAPs in royalty collected by Ministry of Forest and Soil conservation (MoFSc) is less, close to 2.66% (Forest Product and Revenue, Annual progress report Department of Forest (DoF), 2070-71). The sector has significant role in lives of many people. It is also recognized as one of the potential sector for export by NTIS 2010.
The sector has many problems. Price fluctuation of commodities is one of them. Focusing on statistics, the rate of price change of major commodities with respect to Nepalgunj for Financial year 2069-70 and 2070-71 are – Kaulo bokra 9.48%, Reetha 16.43%, Timur 39.62%, Tejpatta 8.4%, Pakhanved 14.27%, Daru haldi 13.51%, Padamchal 35.79%, Dalchini 8.05%, Chiraito -8.62 % and Kurilo / pahenlo -35.14% (Source: JABAN).
Kurilo / pahenlo is Asparagus racemosus tubers process and Sun dried. After drying, it becomes yellow in color. For traders, it is the best quality.
From above price change percentage, the instability endured by the sector is visible. Finding a solution of this problem is not possible because the reason of price change varies. This problem has become a nightmare to probably every stakeholder involved in this business. Consequently, it makes this sector highly unpredictable.
For example, in financial year 2070-71, the price of Soapnut (Reetha) in Nepalgunj went up from Npr 21 (approx, average price) to Npr 23 (approx, average price). At present, the price has fallen to Npr 15. It is because Soapnut turns moist and start turning black when comes in contact of moisture. Therefore, traders avoid buying it during rainy season. On the other hand, the situation in International market is different.
In Europe and USA, people use Soapnut as biodegrable detergent. Quickly comparing prices online, price of soap nut is min. USD 2 (Npr 204 approx) for seller. The retail price is min. USD 14.91 (Npr 1520.8 approx).
As a result, demand and opportunities both are available in market. Few Nepalese MAPs traders are taking benefit of these opportunities.
- There are many traders/collectors/farmers that are not able to communicate about their product. They lack knowledge, skills and information.
- Lacks of motivation, many stakeholders have developed a comfort zone in traditional trading which is taking place in Nepal since many years. There are less risk takers.
- Finding right buyer for your product in International market is difficult. It needs investment and many stakeholders who might be willing but cannot afford.
- International Business needs quality, right packaging and in time delivery. As mentioned above, stakeholders have less knowledge about it.
Honestly for medicinal plants in Nepal, this is time for case studies then studies. The issue mentioned here is partial, only one perspective; this sector has much more to tell. The Development organizations and Government of Nepal (GoN) have understood the importance of this sector. Therefore, they are working for its growth.
To summarize, the facts presented here are integral part of this sector and their solution has become very important.