BHAWANIPATNA: Even as the Tribal Ministry has added 17 new minor forest produces (MFPs), including Mahua flower, to the Government’s minimum support price (MSP) scheme last year, thousands of Mahua collectors in Kalahandi district have resorted to distress sale due to lack of procurement facilities.
In the absence of marketing support from the Tribal Development Co-operative Corporation (TDCC), Mahua flower collectors are forced to sell their produce at a meagre price of `10 to `12 per kg against its MSP of `20 to traders who are mostly the agents of country liquor vendors. Despite provisions, the Corporation is yet to open procurement centre to purchase non-timber forest produces (NTFP) and MFPs like mahua flower and seed, chiranjee, harida, bahada, tamarind, neem seed, hill broom, marking nuts and sal seeds.
Earlier, the TDCC had set a target to procure 1,000 quintals of Mahua flowers at a rate of `2,000 per quintal. However, the Corporation failed to carry out the decision due to lack of adequate manpower and storage facilities. The godowns located at Narla Road in Kesinga and Saisurni are lying defunct for the last five years. Similarly, there are only three field officials against nine.
A field official said procurement of Mahua flower is risky as it is perishable and hence, is not procured. It is the policy of TDCC to procure the NTFPs through SHGs, but traders are misguiding the SHG members, he added. In 2013, a volunteer organisation extended support to primary Mahua flower collectors in Deydar, Budhidar, Bundelmal and Bankpalas panchayats of Junagarh block to enhance production and help them get fair price of their produce. As a result, Mahua flower price was increased from ` eight to `22 per kg, said head of Kartabya NGO Ashok Pattnaik.
As per report, Mahua flower is one of the major direct sources of livelihood of millions of poor landless forest dwellers and tribals in the district. Most of them depend on the produce for sustaining themselves for six to seven months a year. The period between March and May is the peak season for collecting Mahua flowers. But the earning from the sale of Mahua flowers is meagre due to interference of middlemen. Though the distress sale of Mahua has been a regular affair over the years, it is yet to draw the attention of the district administration, they alleged.