Medicinal herb expert Bijaya Bhattarai shows an amala (gooseberry) plant in Gorkha Municipality-14, in this recent photo.PHOTO: Narahari/Republica
GORKHA, May 26: Nepal is being compelled to import medicinal plants including mimosa pudica (touch me not), tulasi, malabar nut (asuro), and gaitihare from India, as there has been little effort to farm and utilize these plants locally.
Mimosa pudica plant that is found almost anywhere can be sold for Rs 150 per kg to ayurvedic companies. Likewise, plants such as harro (black myrobalan) and barro (myrobalan) can be sold for Rs 60 to 80 per kg, tulasi can be sold for Rs 25 per kg, and amala (gooseberry) for Rs 200 per kg to ayurvedic companies.
However, as locals of remote areas have no idea about the value of these plants, companies like Gorkha Ayurved Company Limited have been compelled to import 80 per cent of their raw material -- mostly the locally available plants -- from India.
“We bring large amounts of raw material from India. As local people have no idea about the value of these plants, they don't bring the plants for sale,” said Khem Raj Bhattarai, one of the directors of the company.
Herbal plants like shital chini (tailed pepper) and chia seed are used for ayurvedic preparations. Plants like malabar nut, gaitihare can be found in hilly and mountainous areas, but they are hardly ever grown and sold commercially.
"We have started our own farm to cultivate these plants, so that when we start full-fledged production, we have to import only 10 per cent of the medicinal plants from India,” said Bhattarai.
“Though Nepal plans to export medicinal plants to foreign countries, at the moment the country is importing 10 times more from India than what it produces at home,” he said.
Gorkha Ayurved has been producing around 100 types of medicines for the last 55 years. These medicines are also exported. Based in Ward 6 of Gorkha Municipality, it is the only ayurvedic company of the district.
According to Khem Raj Bhattarai, chairman of Gorkha Organic Herbal Farm, the company has bought 100 ropani land and leased another 50 ropani in Gorbung of Gorkha-14 from last year, to start local cultivation so that imports from India are replaced. It is also farming herbs in another 100 ropani land in Palungar.
The company has planted around 22 varieties of new species and more than 50 local species from seeds imported from Kolkata.
According to the directors of the company, the farm operated in Gorbung is expected to earn a profit of Rs 10 million per year after starting production. The Gorbung farm is situated at an altitude of 700 meters, whereas the Palungtar farm is at 350 meters. As only few medicinal plants are found in the forests and some are also on the verge of extinction in lack of commercial production, these farms have been started, according to Bhattarai.
According to experts, as the government has not been able to make a law regarding collection and processing of medicinal plants, the opportunity is being wasted. “The state has not made any new law for collection and processing of medicinal plants. So we are not able to make commercial use of these plants,” Bhattarai said.