FAO, Centre plan medicinal plants project

Pune, Nov 25 | Updated: Nov 26 2004, 05:30am hrs
With the success of the banana project behind it, the ministry of agriculture joins hands with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in a new project for promoting production of medicinal plants through organic production. The project will be launched in January next year.

Dainel Gustafson, FAO Representative in India and Bhutan, said while the country had excelled in production of bananas it would have to work hard on post-harvest technologies where care needs to be taken to retain the same level quality till the consumer end. The cost of production in India was among the lowest and the quality was good but the handling systems were not designed for quality, Mr Gustafson said.

About FAOs next project, he said that they were looking at an integrated pest management for cotton to help farmers reduce cost of production and improving productivity through organic production. A similar project for production of medicinal plants is on the anvil. The sites for these project are being identified. About 22% of banana produced is lost every year.

Mr Gustafson was in the city to attend an international meet on banana. India is the largest producer of banana in the world. The country produces close to 16 million tonne of banana which is what the entire Latin America is doing but the only difference is that they are exporting it, Mr Gustafson said.

The banana project was for improvement of banana production for small scale farmers. Two areas were selected for the project Jalgaon in Maharashtra and Cuddapah in Andhra Pradesh, which reported yields of 100 tonne per hectare, compared to the the existing national average of about 30.5 tonne. The project had a catalytic impact on the production of quality banana in the country, ML Choudhary, horticulture commissioner, said.

The Central government has already cleared a proposal for setting up of Agri Export Zones (AEZs) for banana and oranges in the state. Pune-based Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board (MSAMB) had submitted a proposal through APEDA for setting up of AEZs for the two fruit crops. The orange AEZ will be in Nagpur and Amravati while the banana AEZ are Jalgaon, Dhule, Nandurbar, Buldhana, Parbhani, Hingoli, Nanded and Wardha.

A MoU is expected to be signed between the state and the Central government but the Horticulture Commissioner did not indicate the time frame for the project take-off. This is expected to be a Rs 48-crore project.

Maharashtra is a major banana growing state with annual production of 39 lakh tonne.