Green gold

Nepal is blessed with a wide range of topographical and climatic conditions, and a rich and varied biodiversity. However, its vast natural resources like water and useful plants are yet to be fully tapped. Besides producing and exporting timmur, rittha, silajit, lokta and chiraito, it also produces unique herbs like yarsagumba, kutaki, and lauth salla. But the lack of proper government attention over decades has meant that commercial farming of many of the useful herbs have not started, a number of rare endemic species have already disappeared, and still some of the useful plants may not have been identified and exploited. Besides, some of the precious plants face extinction for lack of a proper policy.

Against this backdrop, Nepal’s first trade fair in herbs and herbal products, scheduled to be held in Nepalgunj from November 12-14, is expected to highlight the myriad advantages of promoting and preserving the valuable Himalayan herbs. The fair also seeks to exhibit and share the latest know-how of herbs and herbal products. In recent years, interest has grown in herbs and herbal products for cosmetic and medicinal purposes in the country and outside. As a result of the sharp increase in demand, firms manufacturing these products and retail outlets have increased. More domestic, joint venture and foreign makers of ayurvedic medicines have come into the market, as they don’t cause side effects.

Nepal’s share in the $420-million global herbal market is just one per cent. Currently, it produces herbal products from 188 species. Nepal could tap the vast foreign market by boosting its production, expanding its variety, and enhancing the quality of its products. Just by letting vested monopoly business interests to harvest its raw materials and export them at cheap prices would neither ensure the development of Nepal’s herbal potential nor increase revenue. A sound policy, therefore, is overdue. It needs to be formulated to maximise the gains from the country’s herbal reservoir.