Medicinal and aromatic plants’ potential remains untapped, experts sayNepal’s natural reserves of medicinal and aromatic plants, which have been used for centuries for curing ailments, can be a game changer for the country’s economy if the country can tap the potential, stakeholders say.
Nepal’s natural reserves of medicinal and aromatic plants, which have been used for centuries for curing ailments, can be a game changer for the country’s economy if the country can tap the potential, stakeholders say.
Minister for Forest and Environment Shakti Bahadur Basnet pointed out that the country has not been able to make use of even a small portion from this sector’s large potential.
“We can transform the lives of communities, create more jobs and contribute to improving the national economy,” said Basnet during an event on Implementing the NTIS in the sector of Medicinal and Aromatic Products (IN-MAPs), a project jointly implemented by the Forest Ministry with support from Enhanced Integrated Framework.
“The country has failed to reap the potential that the sector can offer. In the past, medicinal and aromatic plants were not viewed as a productive sector even by the state,” Basnet said at the programme on Wednesday.
According to the Ministry of Forest and Environment’s estimates, there are more than 7,000 species of flowering and nearly 4,000 species of non-flowering plants, making Nepal one of the richest countries in terms of biodiversity.
Of the total recorded species in the country, nearly 1,500-1,800 species are consumed by local communities to treat various ailments, and more than 100 of them are traded in and outside the country as medicinal and aromatic plants.
Government’s statistics show that about 7,000 to 27,000 tonnes of medicinal plants are annually collected and traded outside of Nepal. The export value of these products is estimated to be around $60 million.
“The global market is moving towards natural products rather than manufactured products for its multiple uses and benefits,” said Ratnakar Adhikari, executive director of the EIF, a multi-donor programme that supports trade-related capacity development in least developed countries like Nepal.
The IN-MAPs, which were implemented in six districts, was aimed at improving the production and manufacturing practices of medicinal and aromatic plants. The project also worked on expanding and improving market access of these products through branding and taking them to the global markets.
The project report has concluded that the number of medicinal and aromatic plants producers in those six districts had increased annually by 32 percent. Likewise, the organic certified area increased by nearly 85 percent from 2014 to 2019.
Producers of medicinal and aromatic plants have started getting higher prices from buyers, causing MAPs farmers’ income to increase by 23.5 percent annually. The value and volume of these products’ export swelled combined by 15 percent in the period when the export of medicinal plants decreased by 18.5 percent while that of essential oils went up 961.5 percent.
Medicinal plants are among the nine products identified by the Nepal Trade Integration Strategy (NTIS), 2016, as having the high potential for imports. However, the export of these products has remained sluggish in comparison to other NTIS products and services.
Nepal’s export of these products has also remained highly dependent on Indian and Chinese markets. From 2014 to 2017, Nepal exported essential oil worth Rs78.8 million, largely because of improved technologies for collection, storage and processing of these plants.
According to the Trade and Export Promotion Center’s statistics, in fiscal year 2015/16, 36.8 tonnes of essential oils worth of $2.6 million was exported from Nepal.
“The country needs to diversify its market which has remained limited to India and China. We need to reach out to the global market for reaping maximum benefits from these products,” added Adhikari.
Kalyan Gauli, national project manager of IN-MAPs for GIZ Nepal, said Nepali diplomatic missions abroad can play an important role in the promotion of the MAPs in countries other than India and China.
“A government body that is responsible for research, promotion, and processing to marketing of MAPs can be useful for tapping potentials of MAPs,” added Gauli.