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Gujarat goes lax on isabgol
October, 14th 2011

Over years, Gujarat has cured loo blues of millions across the globe. Now, erratic and unseasonal rain is making those in the business of processing isabgol see red.

Changing crop pattern in north Gujarat has led to severe raw material shortage for the Rs 500-crore isabgol ( psyllium husk) processing industry near Unjha. Many processors are now mulling units in Rajasthan as around 60% raw material comes from the neighbouring state. Also , while Gujarat charges 5% value added tax on processed isabgol, Rajasthan is luring processors by exempting the commodity from value added tax (VAT).

Around 20 processing units between Unjha and Siddhpur export processed isabgol to Europe, USA, Japan and Australia. Renowned multinationals like Procter & Gamble as well as Reckitt Benckiser and leading pharma companies procure isabgol from here.
Until five years ago, Gujarat enjoyed a healthy 35% share in the total isabgol production in the country. This has slipped below 20% at present as neighbouring states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh increasing their share. Of the annual countrywide isabgol production of 1.3 lakh metric tonnes, Gujarat accounts for just about 20,000 metric tonnes - down from 33000 metric tonnes in 2007-08 , says an official with the state agriculture department.

"Decreasing cultivation area of isabgol in Gujarat is a concern," says Vishnu Patel , president of Isabgol Processors' Association. Pravin Patel, who owns a processing unit in Gujarat says the Rajasthan government offers interest subsidy of up to 50%. Patel, who now plans to open a processing unit in Rajasthan says he would also save on transportation of raw material.

"Isabgol is a risky crop. Even a little unseasonal rain can ruin the hard work of months," says Gaurang Patel, chairman of Unjha Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC). For the last five years, north Gujarat region has been receiving good rains, prompting farmers to opt for other cash crops like cotton and castor.

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