Darjeeling, Jan. 28: The directorate of cinchona and medicinal plantation has decided to diversify into products like orange and rubber. The move is expected to make cinchona plantation, the largest public sector unit in the hills, profitable.
Spread over an area of 26,000 acres, the cinchona plantation covers Mungpoo, Latpanchar, Rongo and Munsong and has been running at an annual loss of about Rs 24 crore.
“There has always been a talk on the need to diversify into other products. The state government has now prepared a specific plan for diversification which would help the plantation make a turnover of about Rs 40-50 crore in the next five years,” said Gyan Chandra Subba, director, cinchona and other medicinal plantations.
In fact McKinsey, a US- based consultancy firm, had advised for diversification as early as 2001. “We have now got written instructions for diversification,” Subba said.
Under the proposed plan, the plantation will concentrate cultivating cinchona over an area of 7,000 acre. “We will earmark 1,500 acre for bamboo, 200 for ipecac, 100 for tissue cultivation, 350 for rubber, and 1000 for oranges,” said Subba over the phone from Calcutta.
The plantation provides sustenance to about 40,000 hill people but with the industry running at a loss for two decades, the state government has decided to rework its production plans.
“In the next five years, we are hoping to earn about Rs 10 crore from the sale of oranges along with about Rs 7 crore from cinchona. If things work according to plans, the plantation will get back its lost glory,” said Subba.
The plantation, which was once under the state commerce and industry department and was shifted to state horticulture department, is also looking at working with the Lucknow-based Central Institute for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants.
“The institute will be advising us on various aspects of developing the plantation and the state government will be paying the consultancy charges,” said Subba.