The export of herbal products and medicines has the potential to reach Rs.120 billion by 2012 from the current Rs.30 billion with the creation of exclusive export promotion zones (EPZ) across India, says a study.
Herbal product exports can be accelerated with the setting up of EPZs in about 12 Indian states as their demand soars at a rate of over 25 percent in countries like the US, Britain, Spain, Australia, Russia and Indonesia, said the study "Future of Herbal Exports" conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).
The study noted that India followed by China is the largest producer of medicinal plants, having more than 40 percent of global diversity. However, India's global market share is a paltry 2.5 percent against China's 13 percent.
The leading producers of medicinal plants are Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and the Himalayan range, which together account for 75 percent of India's total herbal medicine exports.
According to Assocham, if EPZs having facilities like research and development are set up in these states then India would be able to accelerate its exports to the expected level within the next five years.
"This will be particularly so because in the identified countries (US, Britain, Spain, Australia, Russia and Indonesia), the urge for swadesi herbal medicines has been rising due to their quality ingredients, availability factor and price competitiveness with virtually little side effects," said Assocham president Venugopal Dhoot.
"Secondly, swadesi herbs and medicines meet all the WHO prescribed standards and norms and thus encounter no restrictions in overseas markets to have instant acceptability from its takers," Dhoot added.
The study listed out medicines that command huge demand and are produced based on international quality standards such as psyllium husk, sema leaves and pods, sandalwood chips and dust, jojoba seeds, psyllium seeds, pyrethrum, basil, hyasop, rosemary safe, svory, galangal rhizonmes and roots.
These herbal plants thrive best in tropical areas mostly in the various forest types spread across the Western and Eastern ghats, the Vindhyas, Chotta Nagpur plateau, Aravalis and Himalayas.
Assocham noted that plants that have higher medicinal value are found in temperate and alpine areas and higher altitudes.
"About 90 percent of medicinal plants used by the industry are collected from the wild. While over 800 species are used in production by industry, less than 20 species of plants are under commercial cultivation," Assocham said.
"Over 70 percent of the plant collections involve destructive harvesting because of the use of parts like roots, bark, wood, stem and the whole plant in case of herbs. This poses a definite threat to the genetic stocks and to the diversity of medicinal plants if biodiversity is not sustainably used."
The chamber, besides suggesting the establishment of EPZs, has also suggested a multi pronged and multi dimensional strategy to boost the herbal industry.
It has also recommended that the government allocate required funds for conducting research and development on process development to improve the post harvesting of herbs and create agencies for efficient marketing of the herbal potential through scientific channels of communication.