tofindia.gif (2188 bytes)
June 24, 2003

Kerala thinks big on biotechnology

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala is planning a road map for biotechnology to tap the state's huge potential in medicinal and aromatic plants. The state capital on Monday saw pharmaceutical experts, manufacturers and academics gather at a workshop on medicinal and aromatic plants.

Dr. Muhammed Majeed, a US based Keralite and managing director of Sami Labs Ltd, a Bangalore-based company that makes products from herbal extracts, said at the workshop that Kerala has tremendous potential in the herbal extraction market. But, unfortunately, there is hardly any organize system to grow such cash rich plants or to process such products.

“If we don’t do something now, it might be late because several states are now trying to do that”, Majeed told IANS.

Te turnover of Sami Labs Ltd in the last financial year was Rs.250 crore, of which products like phyto pharmaceuticals, cosmoceuticals and herbal product derivatives accounted for Rs.75 crore. While inaugurating the workshop, Kerala health minister P.Sankaran said India has done very little on this front; its exports of herbal products are a mere RS 446 crore. “Kerala has about 800 units manufacturing ayurveda products but despite the large number, we really have not been able to exploit the huge biodiversity of our state,” said Sankaran.

Rajiv Vasudevan, special officer of biotechnology in the state government, emphasized the need for the state to develop a research agenda covering a spectrum of needs, from ensuring availability of quality plant material to large-scale cultivation of important medicinal plants to harvesting, storage, processing, testing and packaging to meet the global requirements.

“The need of the hour is a shot-term strategy coupled with long-term strategy in this regard, and I feel we are going in the right direction for attracting investments in this sector,” said Vasudevan.

A.V. Anoop director of Chennai-based Cholayil Pharmaceuticals, manufacturers of the Medimix brand soaps, said Kerala would “first have to identify the right plans and begin large scale cultivation of these plants in an organized manner.”

“We have a lot of plants in the state that can be useful, and for that we have to document them in the proper perspective. If not, these extracts would be patented in other countries,” said Anoop.

“Already, Germany is taking up ayurveda in a big way by setting up an ayurveda college there. We have every thing here and apart from large-scale production, we should also have a mechanism by which we could store and also do the processing.”