Introduction to Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Minor Forest Produces (MFP)
Forests form an intricate element of the social and cultural life of tribals, and it is estimated that in India, about 300 million tribal and other local people depend on forests for their subsistence and livelihood. India has an estimated diversity of 3,000 plant species from which NTFPs, generally known as Minor Forest Produces (MFP).
Majority of the tribals live in the forest areas and depend to a large extent for their livelihood and income generation on Minor Forest Produce which form a major source of subsistence and cash income for the tribal community. Minor Forest Produces also form a major portion food, fruits, medicines and other consumption items for tribals.
The forest dwellers are legally empowered with the ownership and governance of the MFP through PESA (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, and the Forest Rights Act, 2006 .
Under Forest Rights Act, 2006, "minor forest produce" includes all non-timber forest produce of plant origin including bamboo, brush wood, stumps, cane, tussar, cocoons, honey, wax, lac, tendu or kendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots, tubers and the like.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, gives the “right of ownership, access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce which has been traditionally collected within or outside village boundaries”. The Act was enacted to protect the marginalised socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to environment with their right to life and livelihood. However, several problems abound. The tribal and other local people dependent on forests still remain underprivileged and poor and are deprived of fair returns.
To ensure fair returns to forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers and as a solution to problems they were facing such as perishable nature of the produce, lack of holding capacity, lack of marketing infrastructure, exploitation by middlemen, and low government intervention at the required time, the scheme, “Mechanism for marketing of Minor Forest Produce(MFP) through Minimum Support Price (MSP) and Development of Value Chain for MFP” was formulated by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs as a measure of social safety for MFP gatherers was implemented in 2013.
The Scheme for MSP for MFP and development of value chain was started by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) in the FY 2013-14 with an objective of providing a fair price to MFP gatherers, enhancing their income level and ensuring sustainable harvesting of MFPs. The objective of the MSP for MFP scheme is to establish a framework for ensuring fair prices for the tribal gatherers, primary processing, storage, transportation etc. while ensuring the sustainability of the resource base.
The Ministry of Tribal Affairs and TRIFED has advised the States Governments to undertake procurement under MSP for the MFP scheme. The Ministry has also revised minimum support prices for almost all MFP items letter no. F.No.19/17/2018-Livelihood dated 01 May 2020 with the purpose of providing enhanced incomes in the hands of tribal gatherers. Further, additional 47 MFP items have also been included in the list of MSP for MFP Scheme to expand the ambit and coverage of the scheme by the Ministry vide letter no. F.No.19/17/2018-Livelihood dated 26 May 2020. and F.No 19/17/2018-Livelihood dated 11th November 2020. Presently 87 MFPs are covered under MSP for MFP Scheme.
The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India had released/sanctioned Rs 319.65 Crores towards working capital/ revolving funds to the 18 State Procuring Agencies implementing Agencies designated by concerned State Governments for procurement of Minor Forest Produce on declared Minimum Support Price. The Ministry has also released an amount Rs. 85.61 Crores to the State Implementing Agencies for Infrastructure Development to the 15 States.
The States have initiated procurement of MFPs from the existing funds available with them under the scheme through the primary procurement agencies at the haat bazaars and through tribal gatherers.