The consumer orientation towards eco-friendly and sustainable products, all over the world, has got the R&D of every industry to come out with revolutionary innovations. Bamboo, the poor man’s timber, is finding its way in the markets in new avatars. Previously one would have heard only about furniture and baskets made out of bamboo. Presently, the products range from tooth brushes, bi-cycles, bamboo textiles, beverages made out of bamboo and so on and so forth. The escalating demand for such environment friendly products has got the government of India to tap the cultivation and export of bamboo to the maximum extent possible. Every state in India contributes to the production while Madhya Pradesh tops the list.
Bamboo Cultivation in India
India is second to China in bamboo cultivation while the north eastern states act as a repository with around 58 species of bamboo and a major contributor of around 65% to the industry. Bamboos take up a longer time of around 4-7 years to see the yield but farmers say it is profitable than rice or sugar cane cultivation. Though bamboo comes form the grass family it is a woody type of grass. The wood is stronger than steel as the volume versus strength ratio of bamboo is higher. And hence it is used for construction purposes. Bamboo contributes to 35% supply of oxygen and it purifies the air, when compared to other vegetation. However the need for bamboo cultivation in India was felt around 2006 with the establishment of National Bamboo Mission to capitalize the resources in the north eastern parts of India.
Bamboo being cultivated in the rural pockets of India, predominantly, can withstand drought and flood. In India, bamboo is cultivated on 15 million hectares and cover up to 13% of total forest area. India produces of about 5 million tonnes of bamboo every year with its value estimated to be $4.4 billion. Madhya Pradesh being the largest contributor for the commercial purposes, people of Assam and Tripura incorporate bamboo in their daily lives and households. Arundinaria, Bambusa, Chimonobambusa, Dinochola are but a few species of bamboo cultivated in India.
Bamboo Based Industries in India
The commercial potential of bamboo has cropped up diversified industries to optimize its use. Apart from serving as a raw material for pulp, fiber board and rayon industries bamboos find their way into curios, house-hold articles, automotives etc . The elasticity of its fiber gives it the much needed character to be shaped into various forms and structures. In the construction sector bamboos replace steel as the tensile strength of bamboo is 28000 lb per square inch while that of steel is 25000 lb per square inch. The strength, lightness and flexibility makes it an excellent alternative to steel in pre-fabricated housing and structures.
Bamboo charcoals come in the place of natural charcoals as they are far more superior in terms of calorific value. They are used to manufacture charcoal briquettes. Bamboos are also used as adsorbent, fuel and as a conductor.
Nowadays textiles are woven with bamboo fibers as they absorb moisture thrice than that of cotton. The varied uses of bamboo and its propositional value shift it from the context of cottage industry to that of an international business.
Demand for Bamboo in India
The growing popularity for bamboo for its benefits and cost effectiveness has brought about a huge market in India and the world over alike.
Bamboo farming has gained ground in India lately. The timber of cradle to grave adds to the domestic and international economies of our country. They are used as a wide range of indoor and outdoor applications. Bamboo plays a vital role in the socio-cultural-economic and climactic scenario. Apart from being used as an industrial product it is used also used by the end user for domestic and decorative purposes. It is used in the food industry as certain species of the bamboo shoots are edible. This also give a lot of scope in the field of medicine.
Apart from the household products like mats, lampshades, baskets bamboos are also used in high-end hotels, as furniture and handi-crafts. World’s top commercial selling giants like IKEA and Wall Mart are vying to source high quality bamboo products from Indian artisans for their Indian and international customers.
Bamboo Export Business
With china offering to 16% of the world’s export of bamboo, followed by Peru and Netherlands, India ranks below with only 2.4% occupying the thirteenth place. Total export value of bamboo is estimated to be 2.69 billion US dollars. The largest consumer of bamboo is considered to be the European market. The consumption of value added bamboo products have seen an up surging curve in the European house holds. Here bamboos mainly replace traditional timber in construction business. They are also used for outdoor decking instead of plastics.
For such exports the quality of bamboo should comply with the European Union Timber Regulation. Germany, Belgium, France and Netherlands being the top importers of bamboo, follow country specific regulations.
Bamboo Exports from India
India under the leadership of prime minister Narendra Modi has vouched for larger exports in the coming years. USA is the largest importer of bamboo from India. The export value of bamboo in January 2020 was 11.71 million US dollars. In the financial year 2019-20 the value was 45.07 million US dollars.
There has been a rise in the export rate of India from 127 countries in 2014 to 153 countries in 2018. The all time high was recorded to be 61.44 million US dollars in 2018.
The Indian government has eased the way for the bamboo industry to function hassle free by introducing various norms and regulations. The primary one being the relaxation of permit for felling and transit of bamboo for economic use. India has clearly understood that, with its rich climactic diversities and natural forest resources, it can become one of the leading exporters of bamboo internationally. A lot of capacity building and training programs are organised by the government of India to seize and utilize the opportunity so that the grass plant could act as an economic booster. Further it is also proposed that India can become the research and training hub of south east Asia. A lot of cut backs are announced for the bamboo export price in the country.
The consciousness for preserving the earth’s resources for man’s well-being is felt stronger than before. Its potential market value is high and it is high time India employs innovative measures not only for exports but also for domestic uses. Farming bamboos help to reduce the carbon foot print and requires only less water. Cultivation of bamboo which is a cash crop and that is proven to provide yields generation after generation has to be taken forward.