1. Bidi leaves
A variety of NWFP which do not fit
in any of the previously discussed categories have been grouped together as miscellaneous
products, of which commercially important ones are bidi leaves, soap berries (or soap
nut), cola nut, chewing sticks and lacquer. Bidi leaves, however, are the most in this
category and will be discussed below.
1.1. Product description
1.2. Collection and processing
1.4. Trade structure
1.7. Prospects and trends
Leaves obtained from a number of
trees in India are used for wrapping a cheap type of cigarette, vernacularly known as
'bidi'. Amongst these species, the leaves obtained from Diospyros melanoxylon,
vernacularly known as 'tendu', 'kendu', 'abnus' or 'bidi' are the most extensively
collected both for local consumption and for export. Most of the tendu leaves in India are
obtained from natural vegetation. The leaves collected from coppice shoots and root
suckers are preferred for cigarette making, because they are generally larger, thinner and
relatively more pliable with less prominent veins than those obtained from mature trees.
1.2.2. Harvesting time
The plants, when about 15 cm in
girth, are cut flush to the ground during January to March, depending on locality, to
encourage coppicing. Coppice shoots produce the best quality leaves and facilitate
Fresh leaves generally appear during
early February and are ready for plucking in mid-April, when their colour changes from
crimson to bright green. The collection season continues up to the end of May or the first
week of June. The collection, however, has to be stopped about a week prior to the
expected onset of monsoon rains, in order to allow ample time for drying the already
The leaves are plucked manually by
the forest dwellers, and are sorted and tied in small bundles, each comprising 50100
leaves (Gupta and Guleria, 1982). A person, on an average, can collect 100 to 200 bundles
per day, depending upon supply of the leaves (Prasad and Bhatnagar, 1991). The leaves are
delivered at collection centres, managed by individual traders or state forest
departments. Wages are paid to the collectors at the rates fixed by the Forest Departments
from year to year.
The leaf bundles are then spread on
ground, side by side, with their dorsal sides up. After a period of 3 to 4 days, they are
turned upside down. Drying is complete in about 8 to 10 days. The drying time can be
reduced to 18 hours and quality improved with the use of electrically operated solar air
The dried leaves are packed in gunny
bags, weighing 25-80 kg. A standard bag consists of 1,000 bundles of 100 leaves each,
weighing 75 kg, on an average. To avoid breakage in packing and to retain their
pliability, water is sprinkled over them after sunset and the leaves are packed before
Elaborate grading scheme is
followed in some states, where 4 Agmark grades (I to IV) are prescribed on the basis
of leaf colour, texture, size shape and other body characteristics. The leaf bundles which
have been dried and remained in storage for 7 to 10 days are opened, sorted for different
grades and repacked in bigger bundles weighing 5 kg each. In the process leaves considered
unfit for bidi rolling are discarded. The bundles of specific grades are packed in
separate bags. Each bag contains 12 bundles and weighs 60 kg. Estimated production of
these grades is in the ratio of 7, 15, 40 and 30, based on the agreement drawn between the
forest department and the Orissa Forest Corporation (OFC) which specify delivery of grades
in above proportion (Gupta and Guleria, 1982).
Annual production of tendu leaves is
stable around 300,000 tonnes as reported by Gupta and Guleria (1982), and Gupta (1991).
Madhya Pradesh is the largest tendu producing State (41%), followed by Orissa (17%),
Maharashtra (15%), Andhra Pradesh (13%), Bihar (8%), and Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh,
Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal collectively producing 6% of the total production
(Gupta, 1991). Almost 94 percent of the production comes from five states, namely, Madhya
Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.
Production and trade of bidi leaves is under state control, for which an elaborate administrative set-up and legal support has been provided. The main features of these laws and rules are: (i) registering individual tendu growers, tendu traders, and bidi manufacturers; (ii) restricting individual tendu growers from selling the produce to nobody except authorised agents of the state governments; (iii) entrusting the rights to collect leaves from the forests and other public lands to the agents appointed by the state governments; (iv) selecting bulk purchasers of leaves annually through open auctions for each tendu unit; fixing wage rates for the collectors of tendu leaves every years through advisory committees, comprising of the representatives of the purchasers, growers and the state government; and (iv) regulating transport of leaves within and outside a state through transport permits issued by the forestry departments (Gupta and Guleria, 1982).
Tendu forests are divided by the forest departments into tendu units. Tendu producing areas in Madhya Pradesh, for example, are divided into 1826 units. Each tendu unit, on an average, comprises of 40 collection points. The collection centres are managed by individual traders or state forestry departments. Each collection center has a 'munshi' or accountant, who receives deliveries and makes payments to the pluckers. An agent appointed by the traders or the forestry department supervises a tendu unit.
The leaves are stored in the
warehouses of the forest department/forest corporation. The produce is auctioned at the
official sale points, where bidi leaf manufacturers and tendu leaf traders throughout the
country participate. Orissa Forest Corporation (OFC) also runs a bidi cigarettes making
unit, with a daily capacity of 1 million bidi cigarettes and annual requirement of about
1,500 quintals of leaves (assuming 1 kg of leaves required to roll 2,000 bidis). The
exports of bidi leaves takes place through the State Trading Corporation.
India exported 4,675.6 tonnes of the bidi leaves in 199192, valuing Ind. Rs. 183.5 million. The bulk of the exports were to the neighbouring countries of Pakistan (74%) and Sri Lanka (25%). In addition to bidi leaves, about 1180 tonnes of bidi leaves were also exported during 1991-92.
Gupta and Guleria (1982) reported
average annual export of 3,681.4 tonnes of bidi leaves from 1967 to 1977, which when
compared with current export figures, indicates an increasing trend in annual export
volume of bidi leaves.
Gupta (1991) reported average
wholesale price of Rs. 1,5000 per tonne of bidi leaves. Based on export statistics of
1991-92, average fob price has been estimated to be Rs. 39,248.85 per tonne. Thus, export
price is about 161% higher than the domestic price, indicating a high profit margin for
Production of bidi leaves is quite stable in India. Their processing along with manufacture of bidi cigarettes is an important cottage industry, providing employment to thousands of people in the country.
Excessive state control on production and trade of bidi leaves is, however, not a healthy feature and may prove self-defeating in the long-run. Instead, regulated trade through private sector may be encouraged. The state agencies should realise their role in research and development of the product, including measures to ensure sustainability of the resource.