Four ministries are working to decide the minimum support prices for farmers involved in the cultivation of over 1,200 herbs.
New Delhi: The Centre has set up an inter-ministerial group to fix the minimum support price for cultivators of medicinal herbs, in a bid to boost the Ayushman Bharat scheme.
Four ministries — commerce and industry; agriculture and farmer welfare; environment, forest and climate change; and AYUSH — are working on a plan to decide the MSPs for over 1,200 traditional herbs.
“India sells the cheapest traditional medicines across the world. To encourage the cultivators and discourage the exploitation of these farmers by middlemen and pharmaceutical companies, we will introduce MSPs of the herbs under the Ayushman Bharat scheme,” Rajesh Kotecha, secretary of the AYUSH ministry, told ThePrint.
For instance, ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has become one of the most popular ayurvedic herbs, as it supports the immune system during critical procedures such as chemotherapy. The MSP for the herb is likely to be fixed around Rs 300 per kg.
The move is expected to give a big push to the market for AYUSH (ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homoeopathy) products and services — from the current Rs 19,500 crore to a ministry estimate of Rs 65,000 crore in the next five years.
Role of traditional medicine in Ayushman Bharat
In his Union Budget 2018 speech, finance minister Arun Jaitley unveiled the world’s largest government-funded health programme called ‘Ayushman Bharat’, or the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), which will provide an insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year for 10 crore families, or approximately 50 crore people.
The scheme is for secondary and tertiary hospital care. “The NHPS will have about 12 modules – mental health, oncology, neurology, oral care, non-communicable diseases and geriatrics, among others.
AYUSH hospitals are mandated to work under all the modules – from oncology to orthopedics – where patients will be provided traditional medicines and therapies,” Kotecha said.
The health and family welfare ministry is working with AYUSH to draft the operational guidelines.
Online and physical wholesale markets
Apart from fixing the MSPs, the Centre is working with National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) and the ministry of micro, small and medium enterprises to launch five ‘AYUSH mandis’ – wholesale markets to sell medicinal plants.
As suggested by Kotecha earlier, these marketplaces would eliminate the need for middlemen by bringing all the stakeholders – seed sellers, cultivators, manufacturers, and traders – on a common platform. The markets are likely to come up in the top five metros during the first phase.
Apart from the physical marketplace, the government has also launched an app named ‘e-Charak’, where the community of cultivators, traders and manufacturers can buy and sell products on their Android smartphones.