Bamboo, traditionally considered as the ‘poor man's timber' in India, is under consideration as a major export item by the Indian Government for a global market valued at Rs.500 billion (US$ 11.9 billion) and producing as much as 20 million tonnes of varied products a year from China alone.
India is almost 20 years behind China in commercial production and produces only 3 million tonnes a year. The government has lately come to regard bamboo as an easily manageable export item that provides high yields, has lots of uses and has the potential to provide employment for millions, and thus stem rural workers flight to India's teeming cities. The Planning Commission of India (PCI) had launched the National Mission on Bamboo Technology and Trade Development with the objectives to place bamboo as a key species and research in the developmental agenda. The principal objectives include using of bamboo as a means to reclaim degraded land, conserve soil, improve environment, carry out drought proofing and use the plantation as an important ingredient in Greening India Programme aimed at raising the forest cover to 33 per cent by 2012.
The Planning Commission is promoting the bamboo project through the state governments, forest departments and forest development corporations and by encouraging farmers to take to the plantation at a micro level in a minimum of one hectare of land. However, one de-motivating factor at the farmer level is the long gestation period of 3 to 5 years for attaining the commercial production stage. The Planning Commission had planned to expand area under bamboo plantation by six million hectares by the end of eleventh plan and use it as an instrument of poverty alleviation and employment generation in rural sector.
The PCI is focussing on promoting bamboo as a wood substitute
The planning commission has estimated that the Indian bamboo shoots industry has the potential to grow at the rate of 25 per cent per annum and capture a market worth Rs. 3000 million from the current level of Rs.48 million. A large potential export market exists for shoots in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand. The APFDC has bamboo plantations at Maredumalle agency area in East Godavari district. On the domestic front several house owners among the affluent sections were opting for yellow and green bamboo plantation as an ornamental plant. The union government hopes to create 8 million jobs in the bamboo industry, lifting 5 million families out of poverty and earning Rs.160 billion in revenues by the end of its eleventh Plan in 2012. The government also hopes to slow the flight of rural workers to urban areas, a major problem.
NABARD deputy general manager C. Udayabhaskar says that the bank is promoting and funding bamboo projects for achievement of goals of the planning commission. The schemes include setting up of bamboo nurseries for quality plant production and tissue culture plantlets through wasteland development, farm forestry, agro-forestry and micro-financing of the plantation through NGO's and self help groups. APFDC general manager Guru Murthy told The Hindu that the district has natural green bamboo plantations in thousands of hectares in Araku and Paderu agency areas.
The APFDC has plantations in East and West Godavari districts and Khammam and harvests around 4,000 tonnes of green bamboo.