Bridge Overview
An abridged overview of Bangladesh Herbal & Medicinal Plant Sector
Bangladesh was endowed with a variety of rich medicinal plants. There were times when it was the only source of medicines for vast section of population including tribal living in and around forest, areas. Rapid demographic pressure, rural poverty, absence of government appropriate policy, accelerated growth in chemical drugs and unsustainable utilization of forest resources are mainly responsible for quick erosion of these3 vital resources (S.P.Gosh & M.S.Ahmed).
International market of medicinal plants is over US$ 60 billion per year, which is growing at the rate of 7%, China and India are two great producers of medicinal plants having more than 40% of global bio-diversity. China, besides meeting its domestic requirement is earning US$ 5 billion per year from herbal trade. According to the World Bank report, 1998, world trade in medicinal plants and related products is expected to be of the order of US$ 5 trillion by AD 2050 indicating tremendous export opportunities of medicinal plants. It is estimated that current demand for medicinal plants in neighboring India for internal use is about 2.4 lac tones annually and it is growing at the rate of 20% (Source: S.P. Ghosh & M.S.Ahmed, “Prospects of Medicinal Plants in Bangladesh and Export Potentials” , paper presented at a seminar organized by Hortex Foundation on 30 June, 2005)
A recent study on Medicinal Plants Marketing in Bangladesh sponsored by SEDF and Interco operation (IC) conducted in October 2003, reviewed the current status and estimated size of the market for processed herbal medicines in Bangladesh. The SEDE/IC study estimated the “turnover figures at trade prices for Ayurvedic sector at around Tk.1000 million and Unani at around Tk.1800 million with Homeopathy standing at around Tk.500 million”. Thus totaling around Tk.3300 million (approximately US$ 60 million). According to this study the Bangladesh herbal medicines market has been growing at over 10% per annum, exceeding the allopathic sector.
The study also attempted to estimate the quantity and value of medicinal plants used as raw materials both in organized sector (large companies, small companies), unorganized sector (herbal doctors/practitioner) and spent annually on approximately 17500 tones medicinal plant (mostly dry) material.
In terms of volume, about 70% of the medicinal plants used as raw materials (over 12.5 thousand tones) come from local Bangladesh source and the remaining part is imported. In terms of value, however, the medicinal plants materials grown in Bangladesh accounts for 40% only, thus reflecting need of both crop diversification as well as quality assurance of the locally grown medicinal plants. The large 20 herbal medicines processing companies of Bangladesh alone utilizes about 25% of raw material (950 tones imported and 4500 tones of Bangladesh produce) demand, whereas another 400 smaller processing companies accounts for 30% of the demand (1150 tones imported and 4900 tones local produce).
In the past medicinal plants did not receive policy support to ensure their sustainable conservation and uses. Problems accumulated around these resources over years have led to bring colossal damage to these valuable resources. Time has come to treat medicinal plant as one of the most potential trade commodities having comparative/competitive advantage over other land-based crops. Transfer of this sector from informal to formal and integration of the development of medicinal plants from production to consumption supported by marketing and trade are the only viable options that could ensure faster growth of the sector. This has to be done reversing the current trends of depletion of medicinal resources which is a daunting task.

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