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SHILLONG, April 19, 2018: While pointing out the obvious advantages that it will have to the farmers of Meghalaya, Congress MLA from Mawsynram Himalaya M Shangpliang has urged the state government to consider the recognition of three crops – broomsticks, bay leaf and wild pepper as agriculture produces.
Moving a motion in the Assembly here on Wednesday, Shangpliang said it is the need of the hour that these crops are considered as agriculture crops and not forest produces.
He informed that a survey he had conducted revealed that Mawsynram constituency alone is producing one lakh tons of broomsticks in a year with a turnover generated to the tune of Rs. 2.5 crore.
"If broomstick is considered as an agricultural produce, it will be doubled. We should look into the economics of the crop which can provide sustainable livelihood to the farmers," Shangpliang said.
He however said earlier the price of broomstick per kg was at Rs. 80 in the market but this has dropped to only Rs. 32 as it was not supported by the system.
According to him, the state government should come up with a system to protect the farmers especially from exploitation by the middlemen.
Referring to a high level study conducted by Agriculture department on the viability of broomstick, Shangpliang however termed it "sad" that the study had deemed broomstick as an unfavourable crop as it could endanger the soil.
He also pointed out that bamboo and broomstick are from the same grass family and questioned how on the one hand the government is encouraging bamboo cultivation while on the other, it is discouraging cultivation of broomstick in the state.
The Congress MLA also said that his Mawsynram constituency is earning Rs. 2.25 crore from 1.50 lakh tons of bay leaves produced in a year and Rs. 2.65 crore from 50 tons of wild pepper per season
"If we take all other areas in the state that is growing these crops, the figure will really go up," he added.
As such, Shanpliang reiterated his demand and said that the government should wake up to help the farmers and prevent situations as seen in other states where farmers are forced to commit suicide.
In his reply, Agriculture Minister Banteidor Lyngdoh said broomstick, bay leaf (Tez patta) and wild pepper are important non timber forest produce (NTFP) in Meghalaya, which are semi-domesticated by farmers of Khasi Hills and Ri Bhoi districts living in the southern slopes bordering Bangladesh.
He said these plants usually grown in the steep hill slopes as well as inside forest areas and are classified as minor forest produce and transit pass are required from the district council and state forest department for transportation outside the state.
"However, as per the Meghalaya State Agriculture Marketing Act, both broomstick and tezpatta are notified as agriculture produce," Lyngdoh said.
The Meghalaya Agriculture Produce Market Act, 1980, defines agriculture produce as "agriculture produce including any produce, whether processed or non-processed, of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, pisciculture, sericulture and forest as specified in the Schedule."
Admitting that broom-grass cultivation provides a good profit to the grower, he said the yield varies between 300 and 500 kg of inflorescence (broom material) per hectare adding even without any external intervention, the farmers are getting good returns because of low investment and quick production.
"However, as crops like broomstick and bay leaf do not fall under the agriculture sector and fall under forest produce, any proposal to bring these crops under the purview of the Agriculture department will have to be examined by the government," the minister stated.
Source, Image Courtesy: Morung Express