BARIPADA: Mayurbhanj administration has decided to support gram panchayats to market forest produce in order to streamline economy of tribals.
The forest officials have agreed to market 69 minor forest products of the district following a directive of the District Collector.
Besides firewood, forests in the tribal-dominated district provide a number of minor products that are utilised in various industries, domestic purposes and exported. These include herbs, lac, raisins, gum, dyes, honey, bee wax, tubers and kendu leaves.
DFO Bijay Kumar Panda said he had discussed with various other organisations like Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Baripada Community Development (BCD), Tribal Development Cooperative Society (TDCC), Odisha Forest Development Cooperative Society (OFDCC) and many non-government organisations to provide them market linkage. These tribals have always been leading a marginalised life in the absence of income-generation activities. Tribals who collect sal seed, a minor forest produce abundantly found in Mayurbhanj forests, are left in the lurch as no agency is willing to purchase the seeds, which are rotting in their houses.
Sources said a decade ago the district was supplying at least 10,000 MT of sal seeds. Now, not even 100 MT are being marketed.
Sarpanch of Budhikamari panchayat Dandu Murmu said this was the scenario in most of the tribal pockets in the district as the middlemen who used to purchase forest produce from the tribal-dwellers often harass them and purchase these items at throwaway price. He urged the Tribal Development Cooperative Society and Odisha Forest Development Cooperative Society to look into the matter.
The forest-dwellers also demanded hike in royalty on sal leaf. They said if the royalty is increased at least 10 lakh tribals would benefit. Other forest produce like Mahula, which was being sold at ` 20 a kg now has gone down to ` 10. The cost of a bundle of sal leaf that was ` 5 a couple of years back has come down to ` 3.
They said traders have been exploiting the leaf pluckers who are not even getting the minimum support price. This apart, they sought proper marketing of bamboo. Nearly 7 lakh bamboos are supplied from Mayurbhanj to other districts of the State.
Recently, though the ITC Limited has set up an agarbati unit at Jashipur, it has been procuring bamboo sticks from Vietnam and Tripura. Permit charges for bamboo transportation is much higher here than in other areas. Traders have demanded abolition of the permit charge on bamboo procured from the areas other than Similipal forest.