India can follow the Khadi path to realize its bamboo potential and reduce imports from China
AAt the 69th Plenary of the Northeast Council in January 2021, then Union Minister for the Development of the Northeast Region, DoNER, Dr Jitendra Singh reaffirmed the region’s potential to become the engine of growth in India, especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. He pointed out that bamboo was an area that also had the potential to fulfill the Atmanirbhar Bharat mission of the Narendra Modi government. On the occasion of World Bamboo Day, a large report suggests that this is indeed the case.
India’s domestic supply of raw bamboo is lower than domestic demand due to limited commercial planting, as around 70 percent of bamboo resources, found in forest areas, were inaccessible until recently. However, the reclassification of bamboo as “grass” and not “tree” in 2017 lifted restrictions on its cutting and transport, thus enabling the northeast region, which accounts for two-thirds of the bamboo resources of the country. India (or over 11 million metric tonnes of raw bamboo) to expand its commercial plantation. As supply meets demand and cheaper local products become the bamboo industry’s first choice, India’s staggering imports of raw bamboo from China and Vietnam will cease, giving a boost. whip to the Atmanirbhar Bharat mission of the Modi government.
Besides being cheaper, raw bamboo produced in India is also a more suitable raw material and preferred by the local industry. The Sympodial bamboo variety (made from tufts and clusters) found mainly in the northeast is thicker and shorter, and is preferred by Indian manufacturers to the Moso Monopodial variety (without forming tufts) which is currently imported from China and Vietnam. As a result of the law change, the Northeast Space Applications Center (NESAC) needs to quickly complete the estimation of bamboo resources by district, so that the government can promote bamboo planting in some districts, not only to meet the raw material needs of existing users, but also as a business opportunity for new entrepreneurs looking for targeted forestry based on end-to-end products.
Yet a simple amendment to India’s forest law will not galvanize the bamboo industry as it is plagued by low productivity.
Read also : Modi’s government wants more bamboo trade, but must end control of China and Vietnam first
Inefficient production processes
The authors’ own estimates of total factor productivity growth (TFPG) for the bamboo industry, using data from the Annual Survey of Industries over the period 2009-10 to 2017-18, reveal that the production of bamboo industries is very inefficient, hinting at low added value. , high production cost and use of obsolete technologies. An example is the incense stick manufacturers who incur high production costs as the majority of bamboo sticks are either unused or wasted in the production process, making incense sticks less competitive against cheaper imports. In such situations, manufacturers need to think about cross-industry linkages that can increase the use of wasted products. In this example, the unused bamboo sticks can be used for the manufacture of activated bamboo charcoal, which has a huge demand in the manufacture of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals around the world, despite the environmental restrictions placed on its exports. With tariffs on bamboo sticks raised to 25 percent to help domestic production of incense sticks, these cross-sector linkages are becoming more critical in reducing costs.
Scalability constraints also hamper the increase in productivity, as characterized by the handicraft sector of the bamboo industry. This labor-intensive sector, poorly organized and exposed to very uncertain demand, is unlikely to expand. Here, the successful experience of Khadi and the Village Industries Commission can be replicated to form craft clusters, promote bamboo packaging as a “trendy” and “affordable” substitute for single-use plastic, and use e-commerce to increase market value.
The bamboo industry also faces the challenge of meeting traceability standards that become a prerequisite when using engineered bamboo for the manufacture of bamboo products such as furniture. Traceability standards are certified compliance standards (related to environmental sustainability, animal welfare, social and working conditions expectations) to be followed when sourcing natural resources. The lack of adequate institutionalized traceability certifications results in high compliance costs for small entrepreneurs and micro-units. Here, the success of Tripura Forest Development and Plantation Corporation (TFDPC) can be replicated in the northeast to institutionalize traceability standards. TFDPC has its own bamboo forestry with responsible forest management under Forest Stewardship Council certification.
Read also : Everyone applauds bamboo is no longer a tree in India except in the northeast
Bamboo tourism and superfoods
Bamboo shoots are also in demand as a staple superfood in both East and West. One of the best (sweet to the taste) varieties of bamboo shoots has been identified in the northeast. However, most bamboo shoots in the northeast are harvested for personal consumption and the sector remains largely unorganized, making the quality of the shoots unreliable. As a result, retail buyers, including Indian restaurants, have turned to more expensive imports. If the harvest of bamboo shoots is resumed by setting up laboratories dedicated to tissue culture, as in South Korea, then at the stage of micro-propagation itself, the desired level of fermentation will be reached. The resulting standardization of filming will then allow its commercial transition.
Finally, income from bamboo tourism is another great potential that has yet to be realized in the northeast in the same way that it has been in East Asian countries that have developed bamboo parks as attractive tourist hot spots – the Arashiyama bamboo plantation in Kyoto is one example. Currently, visiting the bamboo forest in the northeast is only limited to guests with special permits and has not yet become common. The first bamboo industrial park in the northeast at Dima Hasao (Assam) promises opportunities for ecotourism. Bamboo tourism will also help foster “bamboo diplomacy” given the geographic proximity of the NER to ASEAN, their sharing of a common heritage and the high demand for bamboo products from Asian countries in Asia. East and Southeast.
Bamboo and bamboo products present a myriad of opportunities waiting to be exploited by replicating or expanding successful models found in and beyond the northeast region. As Covid-19 and climate change uncertainties loom, bamboo promises to provide resilience to vulnerable communities in the northeast in the same way it survives by bending with the wind without cracking.
Bhaskar J. Kashyap is Deputy Director, NITI Aayog and Rajiv Mishra is Advisor in the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance. The agents are from the Indian Economic Service. Opinions are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)
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