The minor forest resources, such as mahua, tejpatta, wild honey and similar others, which have been made freely accessible to forest-dwellers under the Forest Rights Act, have several industrial, therapeutic and cosmetic uses. However, the tribals, who gather them from the woods, do not get the fair remuneration for these articles as they normally have to sell them at meagre rates at local haats dominated by cartelised traders and contractors. Some state governments have acquired monopolistic marketing rights on the much sought-after forest products such as tendu leaves, bamboo, tamarind and others. But, the state agencies nominated to lend price support often prefer to buy the stuff from middlemen rather than creating the infrastructure
for procuring it directly from individual collectors. Besides, they also do not pay the MSPs even though the Centre is supposed to bear 75 per cent of the losses incurred on such operations. Odisha, one of the few states which have opted to implement the MSP
scheme for selected forest products, is also reported to be considering to discontinue it because of the heavy financial burden. Thus, for all practical purposes, the collectors of the minor forest produce are at the mercy of middlemen.
The need, therefore, is for well-advised marketing reforms in this sector aimed specifically at ending the middlemen’s stranglehold over the minor forest produce trade. Equally important is to encourage direct linkages between forest produce gatherers and end-users of these products, largely the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food-processing industries. Unless that is done, the mere fixing of MSPs for the minor forest produce will be of little avail.